A Step Forward for Chelsea's Law

The proposed legislation would send child molesters to prison for life on their first offense

California would send some child molesters to prison for life for a first offense under a bill named after 17-year-old Poway teenager Chelsea King.

The bill cleared its first legislative committee Tuesday after Chelsea's father Brent King evoked the memory of his slain daughter.

Brent King, asked members of the Assembly Public Safety Committee to advance the bill that would send some child molesters to prison for life after a first conviction, monitor others with tracking technology until they die and make it illegal for sex offenders to visit parks.

Four committee members approved the bill while three abstained.

For the Kings, getting the bill passed would be just the beginning of making good on a pledge. "My personal promise to all the children, all the mothers and all the fathers is that I will do all I can to protect other daughters and sons and other mothers and fathers in going through this incomparable nightmare that I'm walking through," Kelly King said during a news conference in Sacramento last week.

On Friday, John Albert Gardner III made a deal with San Diego county's district attorney to accept a sentence of life in prison without parole for killing 17-year-old Chelsea King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Chelsea and Amber’s deaths stirred strong emotions in San Diego and across the nation because Gardner served five years of a six-year-sentence for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor in 2000. Under a plea agreement, he could have been spent nearly 11 years in prison and a court-appointed psychiatrist strongly urged the maximum penalty allowed by law.

Gardner also committed several violations while on parole until September 2008 but was not sent back to prison.

Prosecutors say Gardner led authorities to the skeletal remains of Dubois in early March, shortly after authorities charged him with King's murder. He did so on the condition that prosecutors not go public with the information or use it against him in court.

Chelsea King, a straight-A, college-bound student, disappeared on a run Feb. 25 in a San Diego park. Gardner admitted in court that he attacked her and dragged her to a remote area where he raped and strangled her within an hour. He buried her in a shallow, lakeside grave.

Gardner was arrested three days later outside a Mexican restaurant in Escondido. He was linked to the killing through DNA found on Chelsea's clothing.

Gardner also pleaded guilty Friday to attempting to rape a woman Dec. 27 near the spot where Chelsea King vanished. The woman escaped.
Gardner is scheduled to be sentenced June 1.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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