Family Believes Missing Teens Are Linked

John Albert Gardner III has "an unnatural interest in very young girls," according to one prosecutor

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Oakland Police Department

Registered sex offender John Albert Gardner III is in custody on suspicion of murder and rape in the case of missing Poway teenager Chelsea King.

King was last seen Thursday, Feb. 25 before she headed out for a run after school near Lake Hodges. An article of her clothing found near the lake matched Gardner's DNA, according to law enforcement sources.

But now, family members of another missing North County girl are seeing similarities in the Chelsea King case and their own daughter's disappearance.

Amber Dubois was last seen Feb. 13, 2009 while walking to Escondido High School.

At the time, Gardner lived just two miles from Escondido High School in the Rock Springs East apartment complex. One neighbor said Gardner had moved out about a month ago but had been living in the complex for a year with a woman and a two-year old child.

Amber's father Maurice Dubois said he can't help but draw connections between his daughter's case and Chelsea King's.

"Deep down inside, we're in full denial of it. In the back of our heads, yeah, the possibility is huge," Dubois said Monday night.

"I think there is a good possibility that Gardner may be linked to Amber's disappearance," Amber's mother Carrie McGonigle said in a statement Sunday. "I pray that he isn't because it would be the worst case scenario for my daughter. I am praying for Chelseas' family."

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.”

"If they do establish a connection with this monster's motive and his track record," said Dubois, "We know more than likely Amber is not likely in a good situation."

Divers and volunteers prepared to search the area around Lake Hodges again Tuesday for any sign of Chelsea King.

A jogger who was attacked in the same area on Dec. 27 was last seen identified Gardner in a photo lineup, according to law enforcement sources.

Gardner, who was arrested outside the restaurant Hernandez' Hideaway in Escondido, is not cooperating with sheriff’s investigators. He is in custody, held without bail, on suspicion of first-degree murder and rape.

Gardner, 30, lives near Lake Elsinore but had been staying with his mother and stepfather at a home in the 17000 block of Matinal Road in Rancho Bernardo. Investigators searched that home and carried out items in several bags according to neighbors.

Convicted of assaulting a minor in 2000, Gardner served five years in prison and three years on parole. According to court records, he picked up a 13-year old girl at a bus stop, took her back to his Rancho Bernardo home, where he assaulted and beat her.

In the sentencing summary, prosecutors considered Gardner’s actions “extremely predatory, and this makes him very dangerous despite his minor prior record. When combined with his callous attitude and refusal to admit any wrongdoing, defendant demonstrates that he is an extreme danger to others and needs to be imprisoned to protect society.”

The court records indicate that the district attorney did not seek the maximum sentence only because Gardner had no significant record of prior criminal conduct.

Key locations in the Chelsea King case:

The Chelsea King case in a larger map

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