County Honors Chelsea, Amber With Memorials

The bill is backed by both the Dubois and King families

Tuesday, Sep 28, 2010  |  Updated 5:15 PM PDT
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Images: The Amber Dubois Case

Chelsea King (left) and Amber Dubois

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Memorials for teen murder victims Chelsea King and Amber Dubois were announced Tuesday at a San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting.
   
A bridge and a highway will be named in honor of the two girls. The Interstate 15 bridge over Lake Hodges will be named after Chelsea, and Amber's memorial will be a portion of state Route 78 near the Safari Park (formerly the Wild Animal Park), to highlight the Escondido teen's love of animals.

Chelsea was raped and murdered and raped by John Gardner while she was on a jog in Rancho Bernardo Community Park in February 2010. Amber was kidnapped, raped and murdered in February 2009 as she was walking to Escondido High School. Gardner led police to her body in March 2010 after his arrest in Chelsea's death.

Gardner, a previously convicted child molester, is now serving a life sentence

In other developments Tuesday involving the slain teens, it was announced that autopsy reports of slain children could be sealed permanently under a bill signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The bill was sought by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on behalf of Chelsea and Amber's families. It was also backed by the family of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu of Tracy, whose body was found last year stuffed inside a suitcase pulled from an irrigation pond.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Matt Connelly said Tuesday the governor signed the bill to protect the privacy of victims' families and prevent more suffering for them.

The law lets family members request that autopsies and other evidence be kept private if their child was killed during a crime. The request could be made only after a conviction, under the bill by Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association, opposed the bill, SB5. However, Jim Ewert, a lawyer with the association, said it was narrowed from a more sweeping original version that might have protected killers who murdered their own family members.

The bill was amended to prohibit a family member from asking that the records be sealed if he or she has been charged with any involvement in the child's death.

Though the records would not be subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act, they could become public if introduced as evidence during a trial. The records also could not be kept secret if the victim was a ward of the juvenile justice or Child Protective Services systems.

As amended, "it protects public access in just about every situation except where there's a murder by a stranger," Ewert said.

The law, which takes effect immediately, could prompt a legal challenge depending on how it is interpreted by coroners or other agencies, Ewert said.

Hollingsworth said in a statement that he is glad Schwarzenegger agreed "there is simply no convincing public interest in the broadcasting of lurid autopsy documents that should prevail over the rights of a family to keep private the final, desperate moments of their child's life."

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