Criminal charges are expected for John Albert Gardner III at a 2:30pm hearing today in the killing of Poway High School senior Chelsea King. Gardner was arrested Sunday on suspicion of rape and murder. The teen’s disappearance last Thursday during an afternoon jog at Rancho Bernardo Community Park prompted an extensive search effort by San Diego police and sheriff’s detectives, FBI dive teams, and hundreds of volunteers.
Authorities announced yesterday that they discovered a body in a shallow grave near Lake Hodges. San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said they are almost certain it is Chelsea. A shoe had earlier been found in the area. The grave was about a half-mile from Chelsea’s parked car. Official identification of the body should be completed sometime today.
Gardner is a registered sex offender. He was convicted in 2000 for a forcible lewd act on a child and false imprisonment. San Diego police Captain Jim Collins said that Gardner has also been linked to a December attack last year on a 22-year-old woman who was jogging alone in the same park. The woman was able to hit her assailant in the face with her elbow and escape.
Authorities are also investigating whether Gardner could have been involved in the disappearance of Escondido teen Amber Dubois. Dubois went missing a year ago while walking to school, which is two miles from Gardner’s registered Escondido address.
Gardner’s mother and stepfather live near Rancho Bernardo Community Park and neighbors reported he often was seen visiting. The 2000 attack on the 13-year-old girl occurred in Gardner’s mother’s house.
Prosecutors may reveal in today’s court proceedings and with the criminal lawyers what evidence led to Gardner’s arrest.