SAN DIEGO — “Look at me!” Kelly King demanded of John Gardner before she addressed him May 14 in San Diego Superior Court. Gardner glanced up at the heartbroken woman briefly, but then quickly dropped his head down like he had done throughout most of his sentencing.
“You have taken a life that was worth an infinite number of yours, and you made your own life literally worthless,” King said.
Judge David Danielsen sentenced Gardner, 31, to two life terms in prison for the rape and murder of Amber Dubois and Chelsea King. The judge added another 25 years to life in prison for the attempted rape last December of 22-year-old Candice Moncayo, who fended off Gardner’s attack. Additionally, 24 years were added to the convicted sex offender’s sentence because of a prior conviction for a sexual assault.
On April 16, Gardner pleaded guilty to the aforementioned sexual crimes. In exchange for his plea, the District Attorney agreed not to pursue the death penalty.
After being charged with King’s death in March, Gardner revealed to authorities that he also murdered 14-year-old Dubois on Feb. 13, 2009, and buried her body near Pala.
Authorities found King’s body March 2 in a shallow grave a short distance from her car in Rancho Bernardo Community Park. King, a senior at Poway High School, had vanished Feb. 25 while running near Lake Hodges. Police arrested Gardner three days later in Escondido in connection to the 17-year-old’s disappearance after linking DNA on an article of King’s clothing found at the crime scene to him.
“The most fitting name for you is coward, you are not a man,” said Brent King, Chelsea’s father, as he addressed Gardner at the hearing. “You are just a weak pathetic coward who preys on unsuspecting young girls half your size.”
In 2000, Gardner pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in his parents’ Rancho Bernardo home where he had been living at that time. He served five years in prison and was placed on probation until 2008; Dubois was murdered less than five months after Gardner finished his probation.
“You are pure evil,” Brent King said, “not because of some sickness or disease so don’t blame anything or anyone for your crime.”