Thousands Attend Memorial Service for Chelsea King

Crime, Law and JusticeJuvenile DelinquencySocial IssuesFamilyCrimeDeathSexual Assault

POWAY, Calif. -- Thousands attended a memorial service Saturday afternoon for Chelsea King, the 17-year-old girl whose body was found at Lake Hodges after she went missing while jogging near the lake.

Students handed out around 8,000 sunflowers wrapped with blue ribbons, and dozens of doves were let go at the end of the nearly two-hour service at the Poway High School stadium.

The program featured scanned images of papers that Chelsea posted on her bathroom mirror, with famous quotations in her own writing. One was from Eleanor Roosevelt: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

Family and friends spoke about Chelsea's big dreams, sense of humor, athleticism and thirst for knowledge.

Speakers said they hoped Chelsea's death would galvanize people to prevent other children from falling victim to predators.

"I will channel my rage and commit to spending my life to make our society safe from the incurable evil," said Chelsea's father, Brent King.

"As a father, as a parent, you dream of watching your children grow, experience, learn, challenge and embrace life," he said. "You never realize that, as a parent, you also sign up for pain."

Chelsea's mother, Kelly King, also openly grieved.

"I wake up every morning now and I have to remember how to breathe. As I get out of bed, I have to remember how to put one foot in front of the other," she said.

A moment of silence was held for Amber Dubois, whose bones were found last week north of San Diego more than a year after she went missing while walking to school.

Dubois' parents attended the service.

Authorities are investigating a possible link between the two girls' murders.

The service came 11 days after Chelsea's body was found in a shallow, lakeside grave, ending a massive five-day search. She had last been seen on Feb. 25 wearing running clothes in Rancho Bernardo Park.

John Gardner, 30, was arrested three days after Chelsea's body was found.

Police say Gardner was linked to King through semen found on her clothing.

State Department of Justice spokeswoman Christine Gasparac says Gardner was identified after his DNA was run through a national database.

The 30-year-old showed no emotion as his public defender entered pleas of not guilty to murder with a special allegation of rape or attempted rape, and another count of assault with intent to rape another woman last December in the same park.

The 22-year-old Colorado woman managed to fend off her attacker on Dec. 27 in Rancho Bernardo Community Park on the northern edge of San Diego, police Capt. Jim Collins said.

Candice Moncayo, a graduate student in Colorado Springs, was shown a mug shot of Gardner and confirmed it was the same man who attacked her in February, according to her sister.

Collins, however, said a swab taken from the elbow of the Colorado woman did not match Gardner's DNA.

Gardner is also suspected, but hasn't been charged, in the killing of 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who disappeared as she walked to school in Escondido in early 2009.

Amber was 14 at the time.

Gardner was required to register as a sex offender after being convicted 10 years ago of forcibly molesting a 13-year-old neighborhood girl.

He allegedly hit the girl in the head repeatedly before she managed to escape to a neighbor's house.

Gardner pleaded guilty in May 2000 to two counts of forcible lewd act on a child and false imprisonment.

He was sentenced to six years in prison. He served five years and was released in September 2005.

Gardner remained on parole until September 2008, and after that was required to register as a sex offender.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered a review of the way the state handled the 2000 case.

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