Mourners share emotions during vigil for Amber Dubois


More than a thousand people turned out Monday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of Amber Dubois at Escondido High School, where Amber was a freshman at the time of her disappearance.

“Our hearts go out to Amber’s friends and family, as well as the staff and students who have struggled to understand this tragic situation,” Principal Rich Watkins said at the vigil.

Amber’s father, Maurice Dubois spoke briefly, urging the crowd to put their effort into fighting for stronger laws to combat child predators.

Meanwhile Investigators continued to search for crime-scene evidence on a North County hillside where the skeletal remains of the 14-year-old were found over the weekend, 13 months after she went missing while walking to school.

The remains were located early Saturday morning west of Pala Temecula Road, about three miles north of historic Pala Mission and roughly 25 miles from where the brown haired, blue-eyed teen lived.

Extra counselors were on hand today at Escondido High School to help students cope with the news, administrators said. A candlelight vigil in the teen’s memory was planned for this evening at the northern San Diego County secondary school, where Amber was a freshman at the time of her disappearance.

“Amber has been lost to us, but she’ll be remembered in the memories of our staff and students,” EHS Principal Rich Watkins told reporters Monday morning.

Authorities released few details about their investigation into the girl’s death. During a news conference on Sunday afternoon, Escondido police Chief Jim Maher said only that detectives were “following a lead” when they located Amber’s remains in a “very rugged and remote” locale near the Riverside County border.

“Positive identification was subsequently made by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office late Saturday afternoon by way of a dental-records comparison,” Maher said. “Her parents were notified in person by Escondido and sheriff’s investigators Saturday night.”

Maher declined to take questions from reporters, citing concerns over the possibility of compromising the investigation by releasing too much information.

The case returned to widespread public attention last week following the arrest of a 30-year-old registered sex offender in connection with the disappearance and apparent slaying of 17-year-old Chelsea King of Poway, whose body was found Tuesday in a shallow grave near Lake Hodges.

John Albert Gardner III - who was ordered held without bail after pleading not guilty to raping and murdering Chelsea - lived in Escondido when Amber disappeared. Her body was found in a shallow grave near Lake Hodges.

Investigators were looking into any involvement the suspect might have had with Amber or the victims of other unsolved crimes.

“The Amber Dubois crime scene is still being processed and (Gardner) remains a focus of the investigation,” Escondido police Lt. Craig Carter said Monday afternoon.

Overhead views of the area shot by television news helicopters at midday showed searchers combing through heavy brush on sloping terrain near several large canopies that had been erected a short distance from a dirt road. Authorities had road access to the area fully blocked.

It was in the same general locale that the remains of 7-year-old Leticia Hernandez of Oceanside were found 15 months after she disappeared from her home in 1989.

Following Sunday’s briefing, Amber’s father, Maurice Dubois, took a moment to thank everyone who had helped search for his daughter, especially the hundreds of volunteers who donated their time and efforts weekend after weekend for much of last year.

“They were the most dedicated people you could ever imagine,” he said. “Without them, we couldn’t have done anything.”