SAN DIEGO — Convicted sex offender John Albert Gardner III will spend the rest of his life in prison for the murder of two North County teenage girls, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
Judge David Danielsen didn’t mince words when he sentenced Gardner to two terms of life in prison for murdering Chelsea King and Amber Dubois. Additionally, Gardner received an additional 25 years to life for an attempted sexual assault on a 22-year-old Colorado woman near Lake Hodges in San Diego several months before King’s murder on Feb. 25. Danielsen added an additional 24 years to Gardner’s sentence because of a prior sexual assault conviction.
At 2:27 p.m., moments after the judge’s ruling, bailiffs led Gardner out of the courtroom shackled, quiet and seemingly unremorseful, much like the way he had entered an hour earlier.
Gardner, 31, pleaded guilty April 16 to the kidnapping, rape and killing of Dubois as well as the rape and murder of King. Dubois vanished Feb. 13 as she walked to Escondido High School. The 14-year-old’s disappearance had been a mystery until Gardner led authorities to the girl’s remains near Pala in northern San Diego following his arrest.
Meanwhile, King’s body was found March 2 in a shallow grave a short distance from her car in Rancho Bernardo Community Park. The 17-year-old was a senior at Poway High School.
Police arrested Gardner Feb. 28 in Escondido after linking DNA on an article of King’s clothing found at the crime scene to him. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty against Gardner.
Despite agreeing to the plea deal, King’s father, Brent, told Gardner at the sentencing that he and his wife would have preferred if he had been executed. The Kings have said they agreed to Gardner’s plea deal, in part to bring closure to Dubois’ case, which may have gone unprosecuted because of insufficient evidence to link the serial rapist to the crime.
“You do not deserve to live another day on this earth after what you have done,” said Brent King as he stood approximately 10 feet away from his daughter’s killer. “If there’s a silver lining to the deal you struck to avoid the death penalty, it will be that you will be much less safe now than if you had gotten death. I hope that you spend every waking moment looking over your shoulder in fear of the murderer who is going to end your life.”
During his statement to the defendant, Brent King looked over his shoulder at Gardner’s mother who he said he also blamed for his daughter’s death. Despite her knowledge that Gardner beat and molested a 13-year-old girl in her Rancho Bernardo home in 2000, she allowed her son to move back into her house earlier this year without registering with San Diego County authorities as a sex offender, Brent King said.
Gardner took a plea deal in the aforementioned attack on his teenage neighbor and served five years of a six-year prison term. As part of his sentencing in that case, Gardner received a psychological evaluation by Dr. Matthew Carroll, according to court documents. Carroll recommended the highest possible term for Gardner, saying the defendant manifested “significant predatory traits” toward underage females and is a danger to the community. Additionally, Carroll said he didn’t believe sexual offender treatment would be of any value, because Gardner would not take responsibility for his actions.
“The defendant does not suffer from a psychotic disorder,” Carroll stated. “He is simply a bad guy who is inordinately interested in young girls.”
Maurice Dubois, Amber’s father, referred to the aforementioned quote by Carroll as he addressed Gardner at the sentencing, saying the doctor’s evaluation was “disregarded and dismissed.” Gardner murdered Amber Dubois less than five months after getting off parole in 2008, Maurice Dubois said.
“Dr. Matthew Carroll was the only one who saw Gardner for what he is — a dangerous predator interested in young girls,” Maurice Dubois said. “Now with our last hope for justice, we depend on the prison community to slowly and painfully cause your remaining days on this earth to be a living nightmare.”