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Parents of Chelsea King, Amber Dubois supported plea deal for killer, prosecutors say [Updated]

April 16, 2010 |  3:35 pm

The families of Chelsea King and Amber Dubois supported a plea agreement by a 31-year-old registered sex offender who has admitted murdering the two teenage girls, prosecutors said.

John Albert Gardner III, 31, has pleaded guilty to strangling King during a rape attempt and stabbing Dubois during a rape attempt. He also admitted attacking another female jogger, who escaped.

Answering in a clear voice, Gardner answered “yes” to a series of questions from the judge, asking if he understood the terms of the bargain.

The plea bargain was meant to spare him from the death penalty. Under the agreement, Gardner will be returned to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

In a news conference with Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis, Amber Dubois’ father, Maurice Dubois, said the plea bargain will allow “justice and closure” for his daughter’s murder. Brent King, Chelsea’s father, said lengthy court proceedings would have had a “destructive effect” on their 13-year-old son, Tyler, and the community and distracted from the family’s campaign for tougher laws for sex offenders.

Dumanis said that without Gardner’s guilty plea, her office would not have had enough evidence to take him to trial for Amber Dubois’ murder.

[Updated at 4:06 p.m.: Authorities said Gardner led them to the body of Dubois, 14, who had been the subject of several searches.]

King, 17, an honor student at Poway High School, disappeared Feb. 25 while jogging near Lake Hodges. Gardner was arrested three days later, reportedly on the strength of DNA evidence.

On March 2 law enforcement searchers found King’s body in a shallow grave 10 feet from the water’s edge.

On March 6, the skeletal remains of Dubois were found buried in the rugged Pala area northeast of Escondido. She disappeared Feb. 13, 2009, while walking to class at Escondido High School.

Gardner pleaded not guilty March 3 to the murder and rape of King. The discovery of Dubois’ body, after hundreds of volunteers had searched for months, led to speculation that Gardner had led authorities to the body. But until Friday’s hearing, his indictment for the murder of Dubois had not been made public. His next court date in the King case was not until August.

The hearing in San Diego County Superior Court was hastily arranged, with prosecutors and defense counsel refusing to give a reason. Gardner’s arrest has sparked widespread public criticism over allegedly lax supervision of sex offenders.

Gardner spent five years in prison for beating and molesting a 13-year-old girl. He was paroled in 2005.

--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photos: Amber Dubois, left, and Chelsea King.