Gardner case to be reviewed for systematic faults


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday directed the state Sex Offender Management Board to review the John Albert Gardner III case to determine whether systemic changes or improvements can be made to better protect the public.

Gardner, a 30-year-old registered sex offender, is charged with the rape and murder of 17-year-old Poway High senior Chelsea King.

She disappeared Feb. 25 while running behind Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Her body was discovered five days later in a shallow grave in a tributary of nearby Lake Hodges.

“We must learn from what happened in this case to make sure the public is protected from sexual predators,” the governor said. “I have asked the Sex Offender Management Board to review this case and recommend what policy changes or improvements need to be made to make our communities as safe as possible.”

Schwarzenegger signed legislation in 2006 creating the Sex Offender Management Board. The board was tasked with assessing practices in the management of sex offenders under supervision and making recommendations for the Legislature on how to implement the changes.

State corrections officials said Gardner racked up seven parole violations during the three years he was on parole for attacking a 13-year-old girl in Rancho Bernardo in 2000, but none were considered significant enough to send him back to prison.

Gardner served five years of a six-year prison sentence for attacking the neighbor girl in his mother’s Rancho Bernardo townhouse.

The District Attorney’s Office made a plea deal with Gardner to spare the victim from testifying at trial, despite a psychiatrist’s report that Gardner showed no remorse and should get the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Gardner was registered as a sex offender in Lake Elsinore but was staying with his mother in her townhouse when he was arrested in Chelsea’s death Feb. 28. The townhouse is about a mile from Rancho Bernardo Community Park.

In addition to Chelsea’s death, Gardner is charged with attacking a young female jogger in the same area in late December. In that case, the jogger elbowed her attacker and ran away.

Gardner is also a focal point of the investigation into the February 2009 slaying of Amber Dubois, according to Escondido police. The Escondido teen was 14 when she disappeared while walking to school. Her body was found earlier this month.

Escondido police said someone compelled by Chelsea’s death came forward with a tip that led to the discovery of Amber’s body in the Pala area.

Gardner could face the death penalty if convicted of Chelsea’s death. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 4.