Shortly after Gardner was arrested and Amber's remains were found, Escondido police got a call from two San Diego Gas & Electric employees.
The utility workers said on Feb. 13, 2009 -- the same day the Escondido teenager was last seen -- they saw a man and someone who they thought was a young woman near a silver Ford Escort in Pala. The sighting was about 8 a.m., about 50 minutes after witnesses spotted Amber as she walked to Escondido High School.
"They may have been the last persons to see Amber alive," Amber's mother Carrie McGonigle said Monday. The sighting gives her some answers when it comes to her daughter's death.
McGonigle spoke to Escondido Police investigators on Monday afternoon to get more details about the sighting. She said investigators told her that the utility workers didn't think the sighting was unusual.
"They thought they were a couple of drunk people who were there after going to a casino," McGonigle said. "They thought the girl was a woman about 20 years old."
McGonigle also said investigators told her that the workers didn't realize they had seen Amber and Gardner until after his arrest on Feb. 28 when it was learned that the convicted sex offender was driving a silver car.
McGonigle said she doesn't blame the workers for not reporting the incident sooner. She believes at the time of the sighting the men didn't have any reason to think anything was unusual because local law enforcement didn't react quickly to the disappearance, like they did with Poway teenager Chelsea King's abduction.
"We didn't even have the big command center and search teams for three weeks, so had [law enforcement] put something out there, an alert of some sort, maybe the two guys would have said "Hey, what about the two guys we saw today?"
An Escondido police lieutenant declined to comment Monday about the sighting.
McGonigle is having a video put together showcasing Amber's life. She plans to play that video during Garnder's upcoming sentencing, hoping he will feel her pain.
"I don't know if he'll watch it or not, but he took away our baby," McGonigle said. She's also putting together a speech that she'll read to Gardner that will include questions still unanswered.
"Why her?” McGonigle is waiting to ask, “Was she in the wrong place at the wrong time? How did you come in contact with her?"
Gardner, who accepted a plea agreement April 16 and pleaded guilty to the deaths of both Amber and Chelsea, will be sentenced to life in prison without parole on June 1.