John Albert Gardner

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John Albert Gardner III
John Albert Gardner III.jpg
Born (1979-04-09) April 9, 1979 (age 40)
Criminal statusSentenced May 14, 2010
Criminal charge2 counts of first-degree murder, assault with the intent to rape
PenaltyTwo life sentences without possibility of parole, one term of 25 years to life, and an additional 24 years' imprisonment (at California's Mule Creek State Prison as of Aug2019).[1]

John Albert Gardner III (born April 9, 1979) is an American convicted double murderer and sex offender.[2] He confessed to the February 2009 rape and murder of 14-year-old Amber Dubois from Escondido, California,[3][4][5] and the February 2010 rape and murder of 17-year-old Chelsea King from Poway, California, after he entered a plea agreement that spared him from the death penalty. Additionally, Gardner attempted to rape Candice Moncayo of San Diego County, and had been previously incarcerated for the molestation of a 13-year-old girl.[6]

Early life[edit]

Gardner was born in Culver City, California. His parents divorced and Gardner frequently relocated around Southern California as a child (including Palmdale, California) and lived in Running Springs, California as a teenager.[7] His mother Cathy Osborn was a psychiatric nurse and Gardner was put on psychiatric medication starting at age 6. He was held in a psychiatric hospital for 60 days at age 10 (in 1989).[8]

As a student, Gardner was labeled "seriously emotionally disturbed."[9] He graduated from Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead, California in 1997 with a 3.2 grade point average and IQ of 113.[10][11] He was also diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.[10] He later said that his father was an alcoholic who beat him.[10]

While in high school, Gardner worked odd jobs including as a lifeguard at a resort in Lake Arrowhead. As a teenager, he was convicted of trespassing at a high school. After graduating from high school, Gardner moved to San Diego and worked at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store.[10]

Prior conviction[edit]

Gardner had been convicted in 2000 of molesting a 13-year-old female neighbor. He spent five years in prison and completed his parole in 2008,[12] although it was determined that he had violated the terms of his parole seven times,[13] including living too close to a school in 2007. Gardner was also investigated by his parole officer for possession of marijuana, though this incident was later dismissed.[14] Gardner was also being tracked by a GPS anklet up until four months before the murder of Amber Dubois. Gardner totalled 168 parole violations while wearing the anklet. According to GPS data, Gardner spent time in close proximity to several schools, in front of a daycare center, on prison grounds (where he was suspected of delivering contraband to a prisoner), and in remote locations where the remains of Amber Dubois would later be discovered.[15]


Amber DuBois
Amber Leeanne DuBois

(1994-10-25)October 25, 1994[16]
Escondido, California, U.S.[16]
DiedFebruary 13, 2009(2009-02-13) (aged 14)
Pala, California, U.S.
Cause of deathHomicide by stabbing
Chelsea King
Chelsea Alexandra King

(1992-07-01)July 1, 1992[17]
Poway, California, U.S.[17]
DiedFebruary 25, 2010(2010-02-25) (aged 17)
Rancho Bernardo, California, U.S.
Cause of deathHomicide by strangulation

Gardner's first murder victim was 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who disappeared in February 2009. Her skeletal remains were later recovered by police in March 2010, after the police had questioned Gardner about her murder. Gardner had been arrested on February 28, 2010, in the Del Dios district of Escondido, California, when his DNA matched a DNA sample taken from the discarded clothing of Chelsea King, a senior from nearby Poway High School.[18] King had disappeared on February 25, 2010, while she was jogging in the early evening at the Rancho Bernardo Community Park, near Lake Hodges. FBI divers found her body five days later (on March 2, 2010) buried in a shallow grave on the southeast corner of the lake's inlet, where some of her clothes had been found.[19]

DNA evidence from King's clothing, along with a December 2009 attempted attack on a female jogger who managed to fight him off, led Escondido and San Diego police to patrol the area for a man fitting Gardner's description. He was arrested on February 28 at a bar and restaurant in Del Dios, at the western shore of Lake Hodges in Escondido. A witness has indicated that Gardner returned to the park subsequent to King's disappearance.[20]

Guilty pleas[edit]

On April 16, 2010, Gardner pleaded guilty to the murder and rape of both Dubois (who disappeared on February 13, 2009, and whose skeletal remains were found near the northern border of the Pala, California Indian Reservation on March 6, 2010)[21] and King in 2010, after the prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. He admitted to kidnapping, raping, and stabbing Dubois. He also admitted dragging King to a remote area where he raped and strangled her, and then buried the body. In addition, Gardner also admitted and pleaded guilty to attempting to rape Candice Moncayo in December 2009, who was able to fight back and escape.[22] Sentencing was set for June 1, 2010, although it took place on May 14, where Gardner was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole.[23][citation needed] The parents of Amber and Chelsea, and the surviving victim Candice Moncayo, made impact statements prior to sentencing describing the impact Gardner's crimes had on their lives, and their determination to see to it that "Chelsea's Law"; introduced by Assemblymen Nathan Fletcher, this was signed into California state law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on September 9, 2010, to help prevent similar crimes in the future.[24] During the trial, the Kings retained Michael Fell, a California criminal lawyer and former prosecutor, who specializes in representing victims under Marsy's Law, the state constitutional amendment that guarantees legal rights for victims of crime.[25] (As signed, Chelsea's Law mandated that some of the worst child molester offenders would face lifetime prison sentences - a punishment previously reserved in California for murderers. And some paroled child molesters deemed at risk of re-offending would be barred from parks.)[24]


On May 14, 2010, Judge David Danielsen sentenced Gardner to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole, two terms of life imprisonment without parole for the murder and rape of Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, another term of 25 years to life for assault with attempt to commit a rape, and an additional 24 years of imprisonment for prior convictions. Since he entered the plea agreement, Gardner waived his right to appeal.[23][26]

Gardner is currently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison.


  1. ^ "CDCR Inmate Information for GARDNER, JOHN ALBERT". Cdcr.Ca.Gov. Copyright ©2019 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. August 11, 2019. Retrieved August 11, 2019. Age: 40; Admission Date: MAY/18/2010; Parole Eligible Date Information: LWOP. The inmate shown above is serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole and is, therefore, not eligible for parole consideration at this time; Additional Information: VICTIM NOTIFICATION: Victims who wish to request services must register with CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services. For further information, or to inquire about court ordered restitution, please visit CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services website or call toll-free 1-877-256-6877; Information current as of: Aug/11/2019
  2. ^ Gustafson, Craig. "Suspect pleads not guilty to Chelsea King murder". Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  3. ^ David Lohr Contributor. "Did System Fail Slain California Teen Chelsea King?". AOL News. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  4. ^ "Amber Dubois' Father Speaks After Gardner Arraignment". Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  5. ^ "Police: Remains of California teen Amber Dubois found". 2010-03-08. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  6. ^ "Gardner Plea Agreement" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  7. ^ Figueroa, Teri (March 9, 2010). "Old report offers peek into Gardner's past". North County Times. Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  8. ^ Tony Perry (October 14, 2012). "Review: 'Lost Girls' by Caitlin Rother is a close look at a killer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  9. ^ Matthew T. Hall and Jeff McDonald (March 6, 2010). "Picture emerges of suspect as deeply troubled". U-T San Diego. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d Marosi, Richard (March 10, 2010). "A chilling early view of an accused killer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  11. ^ Musa, Jennifer. "Sex Offender John Gardner's Former Friend Speaks Out". KSWB. Retrieved November 17, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Search for Chelsea King: Monday. "Search for Chelsea King focuses on Lake Hodges area". Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  13. ^ Gardner, Michael (2010-03-13). "Gardner not kept on short leash, documents show". Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  14. ^ The Associated Press (2010-03-12). "Convicted sex offender John Albert Gardner III violated parole before allegedly committing murder". New York: Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b Rother 2012, p. 155.
  17. ^ a b Rother 2012, p. 8.
  18. ^ Edecio Martinez (2010-03-04). "Chelsea King: Official Says DNA Found in Clothes Links Sex Offender". CBS News.
  19. ^ Gustafson, Craig (2010-03-02). "Thousands of mourners gather for Chelsea King". Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  20. ^ "Woman describes encounter with Gardner at RB park". KFMB Channel 8. Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  21. ^ Police: Remains of California teen Amber Dubois found
  22. ^ "". CNN.
  23. ^ a b Elliot Spagat, Associated Press Writer (2010-05-15). "Killer of 2 California girls gets life in prison". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  24. ^ a b Lagos, Marisa (2010-09-10). "Today in History". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  25. ^
  26. ^ Joseph Peña, SDNN. "Confessed killer John Gardner sentenced to life for Chelsea and Amber's murders". Archived from the original on 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2010-05-15.


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