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Chelsea King suspect linked to previous attack

Crime, Law and JusticeJuvenile DelinquencyCrimeSocial IssuesFamilyJustice System

A registered sex offender jailed on suspicion of rape and murder in connection with the disappearance of Poway High senior Chelsea King has been linked to a December attack on a jogger in the same northern San Diego park where Chelsea's car was found.

John Albert Gardner III, 30, has been positively linked to an attack that occurred Dec. 27 at the Rancho Bernardo Community Park, San Diego police Capt. Jim Collins told The San Diego Union-Tribune. Collins declined to say how the link was made.

A Colorado woman in town on a family visit was running alone in the area on the morning of Dec. 27 when a man tackled her and demanded money. The victim, who managed to escape after elbowing the assailant in the face, left town before she could work with investigators on a sketch of the assailant, according to SDPD Capt. Jim Collins.

The victim's sister has said police took a swab for DNA testing after the attack, according to the Union-Tribune.

Authorities say they also are investigating whether Gardner is connected to the disappearance of Amber Dubois of Escondido who was 14 when she vanished just over a year ago while walking to Escondido High School. She has never been found.

"We see the similarities between the victims, Chelsea and Amber,'' Escondido police Lt. Bob Benton told the Union-Tribune. "Since Day One, we've always been looking for a key piece of information, and something out of this may make that happen.''

Moe Dubois, Amber's father, told the newspaper that news of Gardner's arrest Sunday at a restaurant-bar in south Escondido sickened him and his ex-wife.

"The reality of it really hit home. It really hit us hard,'' he said. "Everyone in the family is in complete denial that Gardner has anything to do with Amber. But in the back of all our heads, we're all wondering.''

Gardner is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in a downtown San Diego courtroom. Despite the murder charge facing him, authorities have consistently said they're holding out hope Chelsea will be found alive.

The search for Chelsea -- a straight-A student and member of the San Diego Youth Symphony -- entered its sixth day Tuesday. Volunteers have been asked to report to the Chelsea King Search Center at 11858 Bernardo Plaza Court.

Later Tuesday, a silent candlelight procession for Chelsea is planned at Saint Michael's Catholic Church at 15546 Pomerado Road in Poway. The procession is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and proceed down Pomerado Road. Participants are encouraged to bring their own candles.

Since Chelsea's family reported her missing late Thursday, several law enforcement agencies -- including the FBI -- have pitched in, scouring the Lake Hodges area by foot, air and boat.

Sheriff Bill Gore said Sunday that physical evidence led them to Gardner but declined to elaborate. Chelsea's mother, Kelly King, later told news stations her daughter's underwear was found.

According to public records, Gardner committed a forcible lewd act on a child and false imprisonment in 2000. A 13-year-old neighbor girl accused him of repeatedly punching her in the face and touching her genitalia at Gardner's mother's Rancho Bernardo townhouse, which is about a mile from Rancho Bernardo Community Park. The girl said she went to the own house after Gardner invited her in to watch a movie.

Gardner was sentenced to six years in prison and served five years before he was released in September 2005. He was on probation until 2008. He registered as a sex offender using his grandmother's Lake Elsinore address but was reportedly staying with his mother.

Dr. Matthew Carroll, a psychiatrist who interviewed Gardner after the 2000 assault, described him as "callous'' and lacking remorse, making him "an extremely poor candidate for any sexual offender treatment,'' according to court records.

"It is my opinion that (the defendant) would be a continued danger to underage girls in the community,'' Carroll wrote as he recommended the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

A sentencing memorandum from the District Attorney's Office said prosecutors asked for a six-year sentence to resolve the case without a trial and spare the victim from testifying, the Union-Tribune reported.

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