Forum focuses on efforts to change sex offender sentencing laws
A community forum seeking support in the campaign for stricter sex offender legislation and explanations in dealing with offenders was held Tuesday night in 4S Ranch.
The meeting at Maranatha Chapel hosted by the parents of slain Poway High School senior Chelsea King and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher began with a prayer, followed by a 10-minute video presentation that showed Chelsea growing from a baby into a piano- and French horn-playing youngster to a pretty teenager having lighthearted fun with friends, mugging for the camera and enjoying family outings.
Chelsea’s parents, Brent and Kelly King, then took the stage, and the father explained the purpose of the nonprofit Chelsea’s Light Foundation, which they created following their daughter’s murder.
“Everyone of us in this audience has a voice,” Brent King said. “Moms have a voice; dads have a voice; grandparents have a voice; men have a voice; women have a voice. A voice gives us power. The only ones who don’t have this power are children. That’s what Chelsea’s Light is about. We will bring a voice to our children.”
Fletcher, R-San Diego, and the King family want to enact “Chelsea’s Law,” which would mandate stricter sentencing for violent sex offenders and more intensive monitoring of those who are released from prison.
“There needs to be another revolution in the state of California and it’s called ‘Chelsea’s Law,’” said Orange County Deputy District Attorney Todd Spitzer, a former assemblyman, drawing applause.
“Mark my words, we’re either going to do this through the Legislature, and they’re going to do the right thing and follow Nathan Fletcher’s lead with his legislation, or they’re not. But if they don’t ... we might have to go to the people of the state of California, who as Mr. Fletcher said, will do the right thing.”
Spitzer also discussed various unsuccessful attempts to strengthen the state’s laws regarding sex offenders and failed attempts to return sex offenders to prison.
Kim Harris, a Scripps Ranch resident, thanked Fletcher “for leading the fight to strengthen the sexual predator laws.”
“I’ve never been an activist before, but I am happy to be a foot solider in this war for as long as it takes,” Harris said, drawing applause.
Several members of the audience posed questions of panelists in dealing with sex offenders.
Chelsea, a straight-A student, athlete and musician, went missing Feb. 25 after going for an after-school run near Lake Hodges. Her body was discovered five days later in a shallow grave near the water’s edge.
Convicted sex offender John Albert Gardner III is charged with sexually assaulting and murdering the teen. Gardner, 30, was registered as a Lake Elsinore resident but was staying with his mother in Rancho Bernardo, near where Chelsea was slain.
Gardner pleaded guilty 10 years ago to sexually assaulting a 13-year-old neighbor girl at his mother’s home in Rancho Bernardo.
A psychiatrist recommended Gardner receive the maximum sentenced of 30 years in prison, but the District Attorney’s Office made a plea deal to spare the victim from testifying at trial. Under that deal, Gardner served five years of a six-year sentence.