Divers searched the shore of Lake Hodges Monday in the area where searchers found a piece of clothing belonging to missing Poway teenager Chelsea King, according to investigators.
DNA on a piece of clothing found along the southern shore of the lake led to the arrest of John Albert Gardner, 30, of Lake Elsinore, according to law enforcement sources.
Chelsea King, 17, went for a run immediately after school on Thursday. She never returned home. Her car was found at the Rancho Bernardo Glassman Community Park. Her cell phone, iPod and school clothes were found inside the car.
Gardner was arrested outside an Escondido restaurant around 4.30 p.m. Sunday.
Gardner is registered on the Megan’s Law website and had been staying with his mother and stepfather at a home in the 17000 block of Matinal Road in Rancho Bernardo. He was taken to the Sheriff's Administrative Center in San Diego, where he was questioned by homicide investigators.
According to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, Gardner was booked on charges of first-degree murder and rape.
Despite the news of Gardner's arrest, the search continued Monday for the Poway High School teenager. In an interview with MSNBC Monday, Chelsea's father said he was thankful for the arrest of a suspect in the case.
"First off, we're unbelievably grateful that this person is no longer able to be on the street. And we're unbelievably grateful that we have somebody that can more than likely lead us to our daughter, ” said Brent King. “And that's what we're hoping for is that we're led to our daughter, that's what we're doing."
Chelsea's mother reiterated that their main focus is to find their daughter. “We need our light back, we need our daughter back, and that's all we care about right now is getting her home," Kelly King said.
Chelsea’s parents released this statement Sunday night on their official Facebook page:
"Nothing will change for us until our beautiful daughter, Chelsea King, comes home. We will continue searching for her, and we ask that all of you do the same until she’s back with us. She is an extraordinary daughter and also someone who is committed to her community. She has huge dreams and wants to change the world. Hundreds of people are working alongside us to make sure she has that chance, and we are deeply grateful. She and our entire family need your help now for Chelsea’s safe return. We thank law enforcement for pursuing all avenues to bring this situation to an expedient, positive outcome. We will be posting regular updates from our family on Facebook page: Chelsea King Search Center." Kelly & Brent King, and family.
There’s a strong possibility that the suspect may be connected to a separate attack December 27 in the same area, Gore said. When a reporter asked him if he thought the suspect was connected to the Feb. 2009 disappearance of Amber Dubois, Gore replied, “We’re looking into that.”
"I think there is a good possibility that Gardner may be linked to Amber's disappearance,” Amber’s mother Carrie McGonigle said Sunday night. “I pray that he isn't because it would be the worst case scenario for my daughter. I am praying for Chelsea’s' family."
Gardner was charged with four felony counts in March of 2000. The crimes occurred about a month before his 21st birthday.
He was charged with three counts of forcible lewd act upon a child and one count of false Imprisonment by violence, menace, fraud or deceit.
On May 31, two months later, he pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible lewd act and the single count of false imprisonment.
Gardner faced a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and 8 months.
On September 13, 2000 he was sentenced to six years in state prison, and ordered to pay a $1200 fine.
The manager of Hernandez' Hideaway in Escondido , who only wanted to be named as Jeanette, waited on the suspect just before he was arrested.
“He just had a meal and left, there was nothing out of the ordinary,” she said. The manager had never seen the suspect in the restaurant before.
The King's last saw their daughter Wednesday. They say she performed in a school concert that night, and then woke up early Thursday morning to attend a peer counseling meeting at Poway High School at 6:15 a.m.
Earlier, on Sunday afternoon, Chelsea's parents sat down for an interview with NBC San Diego. There was no hiding the despair and pain of living without their missing daughter.
"I can't begin to describe the depth of sorrow," said Kelly King. "It's been a nightmare... there's no other way to put it. It's your worst nightmare."
"My body hasn't stopped shaking since I came to the realization of what was occurring," said Brent King. "You just feel a complete amount of emptiness and helplessness."
Her parents say she was not a risk taker and would not wander from the trails. They say she preferred to run alone, which they frowned upon.
"We would never allow her to run by herself. But she's a 17-year old girl," said Brent King. "If she chose to run by herself on that day, she didn't do it because her parents said go ahead and run by yourself."
"When you're that age, you feel invincible," said Kelly King. "Bad things aren't going to happen to you."
The Kings thanked the community for their outpouring of support.
""I would have never thought this was possible in terms and love and support and the dedication and the commitment from this community," said Kelly King. She now wears a pair of earrings that say 'Hope', given to her by a stranger.
The Kings call their daughter their shining light. Brent King recalled a text message he recently sent his daughter.
"I texted her and said 'I am just so proud of you, for the kind of person you are.' She's what every parent wants. She's that kid. You don't worry about her grades, we worried that she studied too much. 'Please, just relax, go have some fun.' She didn't want to do that because she has goals. She has dreams. She wants to change the world. That's who she is," said Brent King.
Kelly King talked about the special mother daughter bond she shares with Chelsea.
"We got to the point when she got a little bit older, we could wear the same clothes. It became a source of contention for me," said Kelly King with a laugh. "Part of me thought, 'oh goodness, you've got my clothes on.' The other part of me thought, 'that's pretty cool, I can fit into your clothes.'"
Holding out hope Chelsea King could some how hear them, the Kings sent out a heartfelt message to their daughter Sunday.
"Baby girl, we love you. You're coming home. Be strong, be as strong as I know you are," said Kelly King. "Sweetie, we love you. We love you with all of our heart and we're waiting. We're here honey. We're gonna find you."
Key locations in the Chelsea King case:
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