A 282-page document released in an “unprecedented” move by state officials reveals new details about Chelsea King’s accused killer.
John Gardner was kept in protective custody while in state prison and was disciplined several times for smoking but was also commended for his work as a teacher's assistant in a prison classroom, according to his central file.
The file on Chelsea King's accused killer assembled by state officials reveals Gardner had minor run-ins with prison guards, and at least one fight with another inmate.
The file contains Gardner's probation officer's report and documents hand written by Gardner in prison defending his actions when he got in trouble.
The California Public Records Act allows the state to keep much of an offender's central file confidential, and the Department of Corrections normally declines to disclose entire files, Department of Corrections spokesman Gordon Hinkle said. However, department officials believe the public interest in releasing Gardner's file outweighs the interest in withholding it.
Hinkle called the release "unprecedented," saying intense public interest in Gardner and his supervision after his release prompted the department to release the files.
"We wanted to be completely open," Hinkle said.
Gardner pleaded not guilty earlier this month to murdering 17-year-old Chelsea King, whose presumed body was found in a park near her hometown of Poway north of San Diego. He also is charged with assaulting a woman in the same park last year and is under investigation in the death of 14-year-old Amber Dubois in Escondido in early 2009.
Gardner served five years in prison for sexually molesting a 13-year-old girl. His sentence began after the 2000 conviction in which he plead guilty and struck a plea deal.
“He took a plea because three attorneys said that he was going to get reamed if he went to trial,” a police report said.
According to the “significant family history” section of his file, Gardner’s father spanked him with a belt and he felt it was abusive. His parents divorced when he was five.
His mother married his stepfather who Gardner described as an “awesome dad” when he was about 9-years-old. His mother and stepfather later divorced in 1998.
The report says the “defendant’s uncle, step-father, and natural father are all alcoholics.”
Gardner has four adult half-sisters and moved around a lot. He had a 3.2 GPA in high school and aspired to be a math teacher. He also considered careers in the military or police dept. but his conviction prohibited him from doing any of those things.
He suffered from ADHD, according to the file, and had taken a number of prescribed medications for the condition, but stopped as a teenager.
In 2000, a psychological evaluation by Dr. Matthew Carroll concluded that Gardner “does not suffer from any clinically significant symptoms of ADHD.”
Dr. Carroll found that Gardner “manifests significant predatory traits to underage females” and “would be a continued danger to underage girls in the community.”
“The fact that the defendant takes no responsibility whatsoever for his actions makes him an extremely poor candidate for any sexual offender treatment,” Dr. Carroll said.
He also said Gardner did not suffer from a psychotic disorder.
“He is simply a bad guy who is inordinately interested in young girls. However, his predilection toward younger girls is a problem. He manifests significant predatory traits and is a danger to the community. The defendant is a poor candidate for probation; he takes no responsibility whatsoever for what he has done.”
Gardner lived near a preschool for at least 16 months before parole agents forced him to move, according to state corrections records.
A regional administrator let John Albert Gardner III continue living within 126 yards of the San Diego County preschool until his lease expired in 2006, a top corrections official said. But no one noticed he was still living there until a year later.
Assistant Secretary Oscar Hidalgo said there was confusion in part because of a change in parole agents.
Parole and prison records show Gardner was living little more than a football field's length from the preschool on the Miramar College campus after he was paroled from prison in 2005 after serving five years for molesting a 13-year-old girl.
That violated a condition of his parole that prohibited him from living within a half-mile of a school.
On May 2, 2006, the district administrator authorized Gardner to remain there until his lease expired on Aug. 1, 2006.
However, Gardner was never told he had to move, according to the parole records. A parole agent noticed he was still living there in September 2007, and he was moved to a sober living program within days.
"The supervisor gave him some time to finish the lease out," Hidalgo said. "A new agent said he's out of compliance and he had to move."
The new agent referred Gardner to the parole board for a violation that could have sent him back to prison. However, the board continued him on parole, where he had six other less serious potential violations before he was released from supervision in September 2008.
If Gardner had been sent back to prison, officials say he would have been evaluated for commitment to a state mental hospital as a sexually violent predator. He also would have qualified for wearing an electronic tracking device for the rest of his life.
Hidalgo said the department is reviewing its parole agents' actions, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has asked for a review by an advisory panel made up of law enforcement, victims and treatment experts.
Hidalgo said there is a question whether Gardner violated state law by living near the preschool. State law at the time set the half-mile restriction for high-risk sex offenders, while Gardner was considered low- to moderate-risk. Regardless, records show his parole conditions specified the half-mile residency restriction.
Gardner is not due back in court until August.