More than one year after the disappearance of Amber Dubois, Escondido police announced they have found skeletal remains that have been positively identified as belonging to the 14-year old Escondido teenager.
The remains were found early Saturday in an area described as very rugged and remote area of Pala, in northern San Diego County. With the help of dental records, investigators were able to identify Amber's body.
Escondido police and San Diego County Sheriff's investigators were following a lead in the case when they made this discovery, said Escondido's Police Chief Jim Maher.
Media packed the briefing room at the Escondido police department on West Grand Avenue at 3:30 p.m. Sunday after news leaked that there had been a major development in the case.
Amber's parents, Maurice Dubois and Carrie McGonigle approached the podium but only her father spoke. He thanked the volunteers and members of the community who helped in the search efforts. "They were the most dedicated people you could imagine," he said. "Without them we couldn't have done anything." Amber's mother did not speak at the news conference.
Escondido police would not answer questions saying it was an ongoing investigation.
Amber was last seen walking on Feb. 13, 2009 with a man about 200 yards from Escondido High School. She was 14-years old at the time.
In late February, Poway teenager Chelsea King's disappearance launched an extensive search in the area around Lake Hodges with officers from multiple agencies. A body was found along the southern edge of the lake and a registered sex offender was charged with murder and rape in Chelsea's death.
John Albert Gardner III pleaded not guilty in the rape and slaying of 17-year-old Chelsea King.
After the discovery of a body in the King search, the search for Amber intensified.
On Friday, law enforcement officers were in Kit Carson Park in Escondido following up on a tip that a group of children found a bag with hair inside. On Saturday, police drained the pond in the park for a second day of searching. Investigators found no clues, Escondido police Lt. Craig Carter said.
Amber's father has said he can't help but draw connections between his daughter's case and Chelsea King's and that he's spoken with investigators with Escondido police as well as the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
Maurice Dubois said a spate of early reports that his daughter had been seen hampered his efforts to draw attention to the case. None of those sightings panned out and instead fueled speculation that Amber was a runaway rather than a crime victim.
"The circumstances were completely different," Dubois said. "The evidence that they found on Chelsea led them to believe that they needed to find her immediately. There was never, ever any evidence found on Amber."
At the time of Amber’s disappearance, Gardner lived just two miles from Escondido High School in the Rock Springs East apartment complex.
“We did pull a list of all sexual predators at the time Amber went missing. He was on that list of sexual predators in the area,” he said.
Amber was last seen just after 7 a.m. Friday, Feb. 13, 2009 about a block from Escondido High. The girl's parents said she was especially excited to get to school to exchange Valentine's Day gifts with friends. She also couldn't wait to pay for her baby lamb through the school's Future Farmer's of America program.
The woman who last saw the teenager used to drive her to middle school, according to Amber's father. Another neighbor reported seeing Amber about 300 yards from the school yet she never appeared on school surveillance cameras.
The teen's cell phone was activated for a few seconds the Saturday after she was last seen but according to her parents, hasn't been used since. Investigators announced the results of a computer forensics search of the teenager's computer, saying nothing on the computer offered up any clues as to the girl's whereabouts.
Volunteers launched a door-to-door search the weekend after Amber's disappearance. In the weeks that followed, family and friends held candlelight vigils and organized search parties to cover areas of Escondido and parts of the North County.
Even the television program "America's Most Wanted" has profiled the case. The family told producers of the show that Amber sent four texts to her grandmother before leaving the house that morning for the roughly mile long walk to school.
Amber’s family says Amber was a model student who never talked about running away and they believe she was abducted.