Effort to rename park where Chelsea King died under way


Backers of a name change of the park where Chelsea King began her fateful run are gathering support for the idea Friday.

The 17-year-old Poway High School senior and cross-country runner disappeared after she parked her BMW at Rancho Bernardo Community Park last Thursday and ran off along the trails near Lake Hodges, sparking a massive search that ended five days later.

A body believed to be that of the teen was found in a shallow grave near the water’s edge.

Registered sex offender John Albert Gardner III has been charged with murdering the teen.

A Facebook page and a Web page have been created to request that city officials rename the grounds as “Chelsea King Memorial Park.”

The story of King’s disappearance spread rapidly on the Internet, and several Facebook pages created on behalf of the girl drew tens of thousands of fans or members.

Facebook is also being used to pass the word about a public memorial service for Chelsea, which is scheduled for Saturday, March 13, at Poway High School.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Friday that Gardner was contacted by Escondido police at least eight times since January 2008, far more often than usual. Sex offenders are generally contacted once a year, around their birthday or when they move.

The newspaper reported that police did not explain why Gardner, a former Escondido resident, was contacted so often.

However, authorities have said they are investigating whether Gardner — who assaulted a 13-year-old girl in 2000 and went to prison — was connected to several open cases involving girls in San Diego and Riverside counties.

Those cases include Amber DuBois, who was 14 when she went missing just over a year ago while walking to Escondido High School. She has never been found.