Plea Deal Wasn't Gardner's Idea: Report

Taking life in prison instead of facing the death penalty was not John Gardner’s idea, according to a published report.

Gardner, the man who pleaded guilty to raping and murdering Poway teenager Chelsea King in March and Escondido teenager Amber Dubois in February 2009, told a local television station that he had been willing to go to death row.

Amber’s mother Carrie McGonigle, talked with the North County Times Thursday after listening to seven minutes of a recent telephone interview between Gardner and a reporter with KFMB.

She said Gardner told the reporter that the plea deal that kept him from possible execution was not his idea, but was the brainchild of his attorneys.

McGonigle told North County Times reporter Teri Figueroa that she listened to seven minutes of the interview Wednesday evening.

"I think he's trying to get sympathy, playing the victim," McGonigle said. "But he's not a victim."

McGonigle said a news producer at the station told her Gardner, 31, called the station from jail.

McGonigle said Gardner refused to give details of the crimes during the interview; he said he would only share those details with the family.

Amber, 14, disappeared as she walked to Escondido High School about 7 a.m. on Feb. 13, 2009. Her whereabouts remained a mystery for more than a year.

Then on Feb. 25, 2010, Poway High School senior Chelsea King, 17, disappeared during a run on a trail near Lake Hodges.

Authorities arrested Gardner and charged him with killing Chelsea, whose body was found in a shallow grave near a lake tributary on March 2. He was linked to her slaying through DNA.

After his arrest, Gardner confessed to killing Amber as well and led authorities to a shallow grave in Pala where he had buried her.

He pleaded guilty April 16 to the rapes and murders of both North County teens.

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