Report: Closer Scrutiny May Not Have Stopped Gardner

Parole officers should have done a better job watching a paroled California sex offender, but closer scrutiny may not have stopped the murder of one teenage girl and the assault of another woman, a draft report released Thursday said.

Even if 30-year-old suspect John Albert Gardner III had been sent back to prison for a parole violation, he would not have qualified as a sexually violent predator, according to the report to the California Sex Offender Management Board.

That contradicts statements from mental health officials who said Gardner would have been strongly considered for commitment to a mental health hospital.

Gardner has pleaded not guilty to murdering 17-year-old Chelsea King of Poway, whose body was found in a park last month, and to the attempted rape of another woman in December.

He is being investigated but has not been charged in the death of 14-year-old Amber Dubois of Escondido, who disappeared in February 2009.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the 18-member board of law enforcement officials, victims and treatment providers to investigate why Gardner was classified as low-risk and not punished for repeated parole violations.

The board began discussing the report Thursday. Its final report to the governor is due by the end of the month.

The draft report said parole agents failed to review whether Gardner should have been reclassified as a high-risk offender after he was found living too close to a daycare center while on parole.

They also should have immediately required him to move away from a daycare center, the report said.

His location could have been enough to send Gardner back to prison, but the parole board decided to keep him on parole for the remainder of his three-year term, which ended in 2008.

"However, it is unlikely that a revocation would have changed anything with respect to the crimes that Gardner is now charged with committing," the report said.

The report was prepared by Deputy Attorney General Janet Neeley and Robert Ambroselli, director of the state Division of Adult Parole Operations, which supervised Gardner for three years after his release from prison in 2005. Gardner spent five years in prison for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor girl in 2000.

"While the functioning of the current sex offender supervision is certainly critical to the review of this case, it cannot be forgotten that the offenses occurred later, when Gardner was under no formal supervision," the report said.

Gardner had seven violations while on parole, but the others were considered technical, including four for letting the battery on his ankle bracelet run low and one for missing a meeting with his parole officer.

Several other violations have since surfaced, including his use of a social networking Web site.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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