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Judge turns down plea from Chelsea King's family to keep records secret

April 22, 2010 |  4:03 pm

A San Diego County judge Thursday turned down a plea from the family of murdered teenager Chelsea King to seal documents involving the police investigation and autopsy of their daughter.

Superior Court Judge David Danielsen also lifted the gag order that had kept lawyers and investigators from discussing the case with reporters.

The order, issued March 9,  was meant to insure a fair trial for registered sex offender John Albert Gardner III, who pleaded guilty last week to murdering King, 17, and Amber Dubois, 14. Under a plea  bargain, prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.

Gardner is set to be sentenced June 1 to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Brent and Kelly King sought to have the records sealed to prevent the family from suffering further trauma.

In a court document, Brent King said he and his wife are in psychiatric counseling and that his wife is taking medication. Their 13-year-old son, Tyler, has virtually dropped out of school and quit playing baseball as he struggles with the loss of his sister, Brent King said.

"I wake up every morning not wanting to wake up," Brent King said, adding that he is fighting to keep from being overwhelmed by rage, anger and guilt.

With every news story, he added, the family is "retraumatized, re-victimized and gravely saddened beyond description."

Another judge next week will consider whether to make public the search warrants used to look for evidence at Gardner's apartment and his mother's home. News organizations have gone to court seeking access to documents from the high-profile case.

Despite the judge's decision to lift the gag order, Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis said she and her staff members will honor the request of the victims' families not to discuss the case. Dumanis said she will urge members of other law enforcement agencies to also remain silent.

--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Brent King, with his wife, Kelly, and their son, Tyler, thanks supporters at a rally during the search for their daughter, Chelsea.

Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times