Tuesday, September 20, 2011
by Cathy Scott
Crime writers choose the stories we write. Some stories, however, find us. In many cases, it’s the locality of the crime that catches our interest. In other cases, it’s the circumstances. I’m a native San Diegan, so when a high-profile crime happens there, my interest is piqued.
Such was the case with the separate -- but related – grisly tales of the kidnaps, rapes and murders of California teenagers Chelsea King in 2010 and Amber DuBois in 2009. The crimes against these girls were more than disturbing, not to mention particularly sad: two bright, happy teenage girls, with their promising futures in front of them, killed in cold blood under senseless, frightening circumstances.
Their assailant was a disturbed young man -- a sexual predator -- named John Albert Gardner III, who had previously been charged with sexual assault. But Gardner slipped through the cracks, evading notice by authorities, including his probation officer, and left to his own devices to attack again. But, this time, the results were deadly, breaking the hearts of the girls’ families and friends.
California law requires sex offenders to register where they live, not where they go, and, in Gardner’s case, he moved between a couple of counties in San Diego County, dodging registration requirements and evading authorities.
Then, Amber disappeared first, nine months before Chelsea. DNA evidence left at the scene of Chelsea's murder led police to Gardner, who lived with his mother not far from the wooded park where he stalked at least two girls, including Chelsea as she went for an afternoon jog.
It was Chelsea King’s murder that prompted police to dig deeper, at the urgency of Amber’s parents. But it was Gardner, in a successful attempt to save himself, in exchange for prosecutors to not seek the death penalty against him, who led police to Amber’s body.
I began reporting on the Gardner investigation soon after Chelsea's disappearance. Now, I’ve turned the cases into a “true crime short,” which I’ve just released on Kindle, via Amazon.com, and on NOOK, on barnesandnoble.com. The advent of eBooks allows authors to tell victims’ stories without a lot of pomp and circumstance, no book release parties, no book signings, and with a shorter turn-around time to get them in print, albeit electronically.
Thus, I am announcing, on Women in Crime Ink, the eBook release of this true crime short, which I've titled A Killer In Our Midst. It tells the story of John Albert Gardner III, his troubled early years, how he evaded arrest, and the girls he preyed upon.