Assemblyman seeks changes in sex offender laws


A San Diego assemblyman called on Tuesday for changes in California’s sex offender laws in the wake of Chelsea King’s murder and the arrest of a registered sex offender in the case.

John Albert Gardner III, 30, was arrested Feb. 28 in connection with the 17-year-old’s disappearance three days earlier when she went for a run behind Rancho Bernardo Community Park.

Gardner was charged March 2 with the teen’s murder and a special circumstance allegation that the killing happened during the commission of a rape or attempted rape.

Authorities also charged him with sexually assaulting a woman in Rancho Bernardo Community Park on Dec. 27.

Gardner pleaded guilty in 2000 to sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender.

He was released in 2005 and was on probation until 2008.

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, a Republican who represents the 75th District that includes Rancho Bernardo, said Chelsea’s parents, Brent and Kelly, have asked him to lead their effort to enact the necessary legal reforms to better protect children in California.

“The goal is simple ... to make sure that no family has to go through what the King family is experiencing right now,” Fletcher said. “Today, we begin a process to honor the memory of Chelsea King by working to make these much-needed changes (a) reality.”

The assemblyman said he will work with crime experts and the public to change the sex offender laws in California.

“There’s not a person in our community who hasn’t been touched by this

tragedy,” Fletcher said. “As a father and husband, I can’t imagine the pain felt by Brent and Kelly King.

“This heartbreaking case leaves a lot of unanswered questions about how our criminal justice system fails to deal with sexually violent predators,” he said. “It is unacceptable, and it has given all of us in public service a renewed determination to bring about change.”

Stephanie Dorian, a member of the King family, said, “Chelsea has given us the opportunity to make the kind of changes that will save precious lives like hers.’’

“We do not yet know when or how those efforts will take shape, but our commitment to carry her light forward is steadfast”’ Dorian said.

Fletcher said he has sent a letter to the state Office of the Inspector General, asking for an investigation into state policy to destroy parole records one year after a convicted felon completes parole.

Gardner could face the death penalty if convicted of King’s murder. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4.

— Pauline Repard reported this story.