A convicted sex offender charged with murdering a 17-year-old California girl was repeatedly fined for drug and driving offenses following his 2005 release from prison -- once while driving a car similar to one later used during an attempted child kidnapping, records show.
Four incidents occurred while John Albert Gardner III was on parole, including a misdemeanor citation for possessing marijuana.
It was not immediately clear if the marijuana violation could have sent Gardner back to prison.
The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation could not be reached for comment Friday. The media office was closed for a state-mandated furlough day.
Officers who stop sex offenders for minor violations may not be aware of their status, authorities said. A few states include notification on their driver's licenses that the holder is a sex offender, but California licenses do not.
Gardner served five years for beating and molesting a 13-year-old neighbor in 2000.
He had been off parole for two months in 2008 when he and another registered sex offender were found drinking beer and smoking marijuana in the bed of a truck at an Oceanside park, law enforcement records show.
The other man was sent back to prison for violating parole. Gardner was fined $640.
State law bars registered sex offenders from living near parks but not from visiting them.
Last June, Gardner was cited for driving without proof of insurance on a freeway near Escondido. He was driving a gold 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix. That October, a similar car was used by someone who unsuccessfully tried to abduct a girl at gunpoint as she walked to school in the Riverside County town of Lake Elsinore, authorities said.
Authorities seized a similar car from an Escondido junkyard earlier this month and took it to a city holding facility.
Gardner has not been charged in that case, but a composite sketch of the suspect resembles Gardner, who was living in Lake Elsinore when he was arrested on Feb. 28 in the Chelsea King case.
Gardner, 30, has pleaded not guilty to assaulting and murdering the Poway teen, who vanished last month while running at a San Diego wilderness park. Her body was found near the shore of Lake Hodges.
Gardner also is under investigation but has not been charged in the killing of 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who vanished last year while walking to school in Escondido. Her bones were discovered earlier this month north of San Diego.
Records show that between his prison release and re-arrest, Gardner was cited at least eight times for running a red light, speeding, lacking proof of insurance, possessing marijuana and having an open container of alcohol in a car.
He was fined in seven cases, and one speeding ticket was dismissed after he completed traffic school.