John Albert Gardner III cried as one victim’s family described the teenager he raped and killed, avoided eye contact with another victim's mother and appeared enraged when the woman he once attacked reminded him how she got away.
The man who raped and killed both Escondido teenager Amber Dubois and Poway teenager Chelsea King was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Both sets of parents addressed Gardner but the most memorable moment in court was when sex assault victim Candace Moncayo addressed the court.
Moncayo, the University of Colorado student who was attacked while jogging around Lake Hodges on Christmas break, had trouble speaking when she first approached the court Friday.
Moncayo managed to escape from Gardner by hitting him in the face. She told the court that every day she feels the pain and guilt that comes of being the only survivor.
“I came here today to stand as a witness for Chelsea and Amber,” she said. “To stand in the place that they should have occupied.”
Finally, Moncayo asked Gardner how his nose was feeling. She laughed and walked from the podium.
Gardner, seated with his attorneys, was visibly enraged by her comment and said something to one of his defense attorneys.
The emotion Gardner showed after Moncayo's statement was far different than what he displayed at the beginning of the sentencing when tears fell from his face while Carrie McGonigle, Amber Dubois’ mother, spoke.
“I believe in my heart that Amber would forgive and today I choose to take my daughter’s strength and forgive but I also choose never to forget,” she said.
“I’m confident that one day I will be with my daughter again,” McGonigle said. “I’m confident you will never make it to heaven.”
At times during the hour-long sentencing, videos played showing Gardner's victims but he did not look at the large video screen in the courtroom. During the video featuring Amber, Gardner openly sobbed.
When Chelsea's mother Kelly King stepped forward to address the court she demanded Gardner’s attention. “Look at me!” she said. After Gardner refused to look at her, King shook her head and said, ”Why am I not surprised."
“You dismantled a family life that was built on love, trust and faith but you did not destroy it,” Kelly King said explaining how she and her family struggle to find joy in every day moments.
“You have taken a life that was worth an infinite number of yours,” she told her daughter’s killer.
“You’ve been eclipsed by Chelsea. Your name means nothing. Her name means everything,” she said. “You no longer exist.”
Chelsea’s father Brent King, who had referred to Gardner with words like monster, serial killer, animal said that not using his given name let Gardner off the hook.
“The most fitting name for you is coward. You are not a man,” King said. “You are just a weak, pathetic man who preys on unsuspecting young girls half your size.”
“It’s time for you to go to your permanent cage,” said Brent King. “You’re irrelevant.”
Amber’s stepfather David Cave told Gardner he is the poster child for a one-strike law for people who commit violent sex crimes. “No more plea bargains. No more deals. Period. We need to take out our own garbage. Garbage like you,” he said.
Amber’s father, Moe Dubois, likened Gardner to a mountain lion whose natural instinct is to stalk its prey. “I truly hope you suffer 100 times the amount of pain you caused our families,” said Dubois.
Amber, the 14-year old girl reported missing in February 2009, was raped and stabbed by Gardner about an hour and a half after the two met. Her body wasn't found until Gardner was arrested for the rape and murder of Chelsea King, the Poway HS student who disappeared during a run around Lake Hodges in February 2010. Gardner admitted dragging Chelsea to a remote area where he raped, strangled and buried her.
After Gardner's arrest, Candace Moncayo identified him as the man who jumped her while she was jogging around Lake Hodges on Dec. 27, 2009. Moncayo talked about the experience on cable television and described how she managed to escape from Gardner with a punch in the nose.
Prior to entering Gardner's guilty plea on April 16, his attorneys negotiated a deal with prosecutors for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
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