State halts policy of shedding parole files


California’s practice of shredding the parole files of sex offenders one year after parole is served is now on hold because of the slaying of Poway teen Chelsea King.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Tuesday ordered an immediate halt in the implementation of the state’s current parole record policy.

The order followed a report by The San Diego Union-Tribune that the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had destroyed all of the field files related to the supervision of John Albert Gardner III.

Gardner — a registered sex offender who attacked a 13-year-old girl in 2000 — is charged with raping and murdering 17-year-old Chelsea late last month.

“The current practice of not keeping information on sex offenders in California is unacceptable,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “It is in the best interest of public safety to retain all information on these individuals and to make as much information as possible available and transparent.”

Gardner, 30, served five years of a six-year sentenced for attacking a neighbor girl while living with his mother in 2000. He was not under supervision when he allegedly attacked Chelsea Feb. 25 as she was jogging near Lake Hodges.

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

Local authorities have said Gardner is also the focus of the investigation into the slaying of Amber Dubois of Escondido. Amber was 14 when she disappeared just over a year ago while walking to school. Her body was found Saturday in the Pala area.

Authorities in Riverside County have said they are looking into whether Gardner was connected to an attempted abduction of a young girl in Lake Elsinore last October. At the time, Gardner lived in the area.

He was staying in Escondido when Amber disappeared and in Rancho Bernardo when Chelsea went missing.

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