Assembly unanimously approves Chelsea's Law

By Joe Britton

City News Service

Legislation named for slain Poway High School senior Chelsea King that calls for mandatory life sentences for violent sex crimes against children was passed Monday by the state Assembly on a 72-0 vote.

Assembly Bill 1844, also known as Chelsea’s Law, will now be sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has pledged to sign it.

The bill, which was approved on a 33-0 vote by the state Senate last Tuesday, also would tighten sex offense parole guidelines and require lifelong tracking of certain sex offenders.

“AB 1844, Chelsea’s Law, is inspired by the spirit of Chelsea King, but is for all the children of California,” said Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, who authored the legislation.

Before the vote, Fletcher told his colleagues the “status quo cannot continue” and urged support for the legislation that he said would bring about “bold reforms” in how the state deals with violent sex offenders.

“Today we vote on a piece of legislation that will make significant changes in the way our state deals with violent sex offenders who target children,” Fletcher said.

No one spoke in opposition to AB 1844.

Chelsea was raped and killed by registered sex offender John Albert Gardner III, who targeted her on Feb. 25 while she was jogging at a Rancho Bernardo park. Searchers found the 17-year-old’s body was found days later near Lake Hodges.

Gardner, 31, was sentenced in May to two life terms without parole for murdering and sexually assaulting Chelsea and for abducting, raping and fatally stabbing 14-year-old Amber Dubois of Escondido a year earlier.

Gardner was on parole for other sex crimes when he murdered the teens. Authorities have been accused of missing opportunities to return Gardner to prison for parole violations before the murders.

“In cases like these, with criminals like these, once guilt has been determined beyond a reasonable doubt, it may be best to just lock them up and throw away the key,” said Assemblyman Marty Block, D-San Diego, who co-authored AB 1844.

The Assembly last week approved a package of bills promoted by Amber’s father and intended to improve law enforcement handling of missing person cases.