A Charming Killer

Presented By

Bonnie M. Wells

SAN DIEGO (March 4) - He shoveled snow and carried groceries for a neighbor. He cared for a sick girlfriend by pressing a cool cloth to her head all afternoon. A former high school girlfriend called him "the one person who has made me feel completely safe in this world."

Testimonies from family and friends in a 2000 child molestation case cast a sympathetic light on 30-year-old John Albert Gardner III, now accused of murdering 17-year-old girl Chelsea King while she was on a run and raping or attempting to rape her.

Gardner, who pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder and assault with intent to commit rape, was linked to King's death from semen found in the victim's clothing, said California Department of Justice of spokesman Christine Gasparac.

John Albert Gardner III, 30, is accused of murdering and raping or attempting to rape 17-year-old Chelsea King.

A body that authorities believe is Chelsea's was discovered Tuesday in a shallow grave on the south shore of Lake Hodges in a wilderness area near a park where she was last seen five days earlier in running clothes. Her car was discovered at the park with her belongings inside.

Gardner stood silently in court, wrists shackled to his waist and eyes cast downward during Wednesday's brief hearing. Brent and Kelly King, Chelsea's parents, sat several rows back.

"We know that this has rocked San Diego," said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "It has rocked all of us."

A court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Matthew Carroll, urged the "maximum sentence allowed by law" in 2000 for Gardner for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor at his home, according to court documents. He called him "an extremely poor candidate" for treatment because he refused to admit any responsibility.

Dr. Mark Kalish, who shares an office with Carroll, said his colleague was saddened and angered by the news about Gardner, feeling his advice was ignored.

"He didn't want there to be any ambiguity or doubt about his assessment," Kalish said. "How much bigger a red flag could Dr. Carroll have raised?"

A defense sentencing memorandum shows Gardner also had sympathizers.

Dr. Divy Kikani, a psychiatrist who treated Gardner for bipolar disorder, wrote that his patient was "extremely remorseful" for inappropriate sexual relations with two girls, ages 13 and 14. He said Gardner was "highly motivated" to get help.

Kikani didn't respond to phone messages Wednesday.

Gardner spent at least part of his childhood in the San Bernardino Mountains community of Running Springs and attended nearby Rim of the World High School, according to the document. He was convicted in 1998 of disturbing the peace in an incident that involved trespassing on campus, his only previous criminal record at the time.

The killing of Chelsea King, 17, has "rocked San Diego," a prosecutor said.

"Never once in the whole time that I have known John have I ever felt threatened or scared," Jennifer Tripp, who began dating Gardner when she was a sophomore and he was a senior, wrote the judge. She declined to comment Wednesday when reached by The Associated Press.

Vergie Lightfoot, who lived four houses away, said Gardner volunteered to fix a septic tank and carry groceries. They talked over pie and coffee.

Beth Melban, his then-girlfriend, said she began dating Gardner when they worked at Big 5 Sporting Goods in San Diego and that she took the initiative to kiss him on a first date. Her parents were eager to meet him.

"I practically had to force myself on him and he even knew I liked him," she wrote the judge. "John has never been anything but kind and compassionate towards me."

Catherine Osborn, Gardner's mother, wrote the judge in 2000 that her son accepted "full responsibility for his actions."

A spray-painted message was found on the garage of her home in San Diego's Rancho Bernardo area early Wednesday that read, "Chelseas blood is on you. Move out." Police did not know who painted it.

Garner faced a maximum of nearly 11 years in prison in 2000 under a plea agreement, but the judge accepted the prosecution's recommendation of six years. He was on parole for three years, until September 2008.

The district attorney's office has declined to comment on the 2000 case.

Gardner is also charged with intent to commit rape was filed in connection with a December attack on another female.

Gardner, who was required under state law to disclose his residence, registered in January to live in Lake Elsinore, north of San Diego, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County district attorney's office.

"He was not on our radar for any reason," Hall said.

Associated Press writers Don Thompson in Sacramento and Raquel Maria Dillon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Comments By BMW

"A court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Matthew Carroll, urged the "maximum sentence allowed by law" in 2000 for Gardner for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor at his home, according to court documents. He called him "an extremely poor candidate" for treatment because he refused to admit any responsibility."

Why are the taxpayers across this nation being forced to pay for psychiatric evaluations of these people, only to have the courts of our nation completely ignore the psychiatrists?

How long will our people stand in submissive silence while we are murdered off by a pack of thugs that the courts [judges] insist on turning loose on us time and time again?

I do not blame law enforcement [our cops] for this national disgrace, because I know too many cops, and most are just as frustrated by this 'system' as the general public is.

Our system has been taken over by thugs in robes and three piece suits, many of which were lawless, arrogant punks before they ever climbed into a lawyer or judge disguise, and pretended to care about what is happening to our people and our nation.

They hide behind an 'immunity' clause that I have said for years does not actually protect them. That clause can only protect them if they have truly done their best to protect our people and have failed through no fault of their own. This kind of disaster is SOMEONE'S fault!

If I own a viscious dog, and I know the animal is capable of killing or maiming someone -- especially if the dog has seriously harmed someone before - then I am financially, legally and morally responsible for any damages that the dog might do if I turn him loose and allow him to roam my neighborhood for some 'exercise.' I have 'no protection' under the law.

If, on the other hand, I do not know that my dog is viscious {and any reasonably intelligent dog owner should know what type of temperment their dog possesses } and I have my dog confined in a kennel run inside a fenced yard, and somehow he manages to get free of his kennel and bites someone on his own property, I might have a chance in the court room. If he has escaped his own yard and bites someone, I would, in all likelyhood still be responsible for damages.

I say today, as I have said for many, many years now .... whoever fails to 'control a beast' is responsible for the actions of that beast.

In my opinion, whoever ignored Dr. Carroll is responsible for what John Gardner has now done, and that person, or those persons should be held accountable.

I remember a case in this area. A 55 year old man was indicted for raping a 13 year old girl in her own home. Granted, it took 2 years before the prosecution presented the case to the grand jury, but they indicted him when it was presented.

Then, after months and months of delays, it finally reached the court room.

That's when the prosecuting attorney asked the court to drop all charges!

The man's attorney was none other than his former wife's divorce attorney, who had advanced knowledge that his wife had reported he'd tried to rape her 12 year old daughter, and had raped her during their marriage and even after they were seperated. She had also reported to this same attorney that the man had choked her on several ocassions during their marriage. Still, this attorney apparently had no qualms about going into our court room and defending the integrity, character and innocense of this beast. But, as luck would have it, the attorney got to make a lot of money for nothing since it was ultimately the prosecuting attorney who decided to turn him loose without a trial.

This article about John Gardner reminded me of that case, because just as the psychiatrist said about Gardner, the 'suspect' in this home town case 'refused to admit any responsibility,' and actually went so far as to tell one of his former girlfriends that he did have sex with the child, but it wasn't rape because "she owed him!" He claimed he'd 'taken her places she wanted to go and had bought her gifts ..... therefore she owed him.

It was a sad time for me ..... and many others that had been victimized by this man, and so, I know how those in California must feel about Gardner and the system that turned him loose.

And so, in closing, I only have one thing to add to my comments ......




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This page posted/updated: March 4, 2010 / March 25, 2013 // BMW