tv Dateline NBC NBC September 24, 2010 8:00pm-10:00pm EDT
it happened friday the 13th. a teenager named amber vanished on her way to school. >> very concerning to us. >> someone has her. >> then it happened again. >> she needs to come home. >> another teenager on a sunny afternoon. vanished too. >> she's my angel forever. >> angel, now two gone. where were they and was there lank sf. >> there was more of a hope that they were somehow connected. >> tonight the gripping inside
story of the disturbing double mystery. >> maybe she's tied up somewhere. maybe she's being held captive. >> who could solve it? >> there's a lot of desperation. >> and who was behind it? >> what type of creature would do this? >> danger was lurking. >> i was shocked. that warning was not listened to. >> and a mother was bracing for a dramatic moment eye to eye with evil. >> what did you ask him? >> two families, two mysteries. two journeys for justice. >> we just have to find her. ? broad daylight. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening and welcome to "dateline." i'm ann curry. the heartbreaking double mystery made headlines across the nation and tonight "dateline" has new details on the story of two teenage girls who both disappeared in broad daylight. as the day stretched on, both of their families were suddenly forced on desperate journeys to
find their daughters and the truth. here is keith morrison. >> on the evening of february 12th, 2009, in a hillside house north of california, an investigation was finally complete. a girl had won. >> they made her write one-page letter to me. she made it two pages but repeated herself multiple times to make it longer. >> she pestered her mother carrie and her mother's boyfriend at the time dave. >> all kids have their own things that they're into. amber loved animals. >> she had been campaigning for it during her regular and frequent visits with her father moe. >> she had already had it named for a month before she even got it. >> what was she going to call it? >> lynette. it's a french name. >> which made perfect sense to her since her own surname was very french, dubois, amber dubois. she was 14 years old.
in the morning it would be friday, february 13th. it was to be her lucky day, the day she'd walk those few familiar blocks from her home in escondido clutching her mother's $200 check and receive in exchange a lamb of all things. she was buying it as part of her high school's future farmers program and tonight as she drifted off to sleep for the last time, every good thing still seemed possible. >> come home. please. >> none of it had happened then. >> there's not a single day that goes by that i don't break down and cry for hours. >> the extent of the evil hadn't occurred to the sheriff yet. >> all of a sudden, there's a safe zone that's been taken away from you. >> the d.a. never imagined she'd say -- >> this case rocked san diego county. >> but this was before all that.
and amber was just going about the business of being 14 and slightly quirky. >> amber was a free-spirited kid. she loved reading and writing and she didn't like the normal things that most kids like. >> she had her own pace. she liked to take her time. come on, amber, come on. she's looking at the flowers, the bugs and just whatever. she was never in a hurry ever. she just wanted to see the world how she wanted to see it. and she did. >> no interest in boys yet. no girlie things either. >> we would have to order her clothes for school online because she hates shopping. >> didn't want to go shopping. >> god no. that would be torture for her to go to the mall. >> what did the other girls think about it? you know they're so cliquish that age. >> she had her clique but it was a very, very small clique. one small group of very close friends that were all geeky nerds like her, basically. >> basically.
>> they're all a bunch of book worms. >> she read the whole harry potter series in two weeks. >> come on! >> all of them. she couldn't put a book down. she would get a new 300-page novel and i would have to go in her room multiple times because i knew she was under the blanket reading. >> probably over the years she read more books than i had in my life. >> she was just beginning high school. she had made plans to take extra courses, graduate early and vowed never to miss one day of class. >> i'm like, are you sure? you never want to miss school? what's wrong with you. i would do anything to miss school. she wanted perfect attendance. >> she wanted to be an animal behavioral scientist. she wanted to study animals in depth. >> she kept guinea pigs and fish and birds and dogs and rats. she began riding lessons at 3. by 9, she owned a horse. so when the school offered future farmers of america, of course she joined. >> we have a huge, huge farm on
the campus and they allow students to purchase and raise farm animals. >> and thus, the lamb. and the happy walk to school on friday, february 13th. >> and i remember driving to work laughing knowing i know i'm going to have to take care of that lamb. >> the weather was drizzly that winter's day, mid 50s. it was late in the afternoon when dave noticed, well, nothing. an absence. >> i was at the house and went, wait a minute, why isn't amber here? because her mom was still at work. looked at my wife. she should have been here hour ago. i called her mom? >> i was like wonder where she is and called her cell phone. amber, call pe. >> dave drove today school. >> i figured maybe she went to play with her lamb and lost track of time. >> but then he found one of her teachers and asked if he had seen amber. mr. rayburn looked at me and said, i didn't show up here today. i was very surprised she wasn't
here. this was her last day to pay for her lamb. and i said, no, no, no, no. what are you talking about? i gave her a check before she left the house this morning. that's when sirens went off. i called carrie and told her mr. rayburn said she wasn't there. carrie at that point kind of went into panic mode. >> and he says, you know, amber never made it. i knew right then something -- someone had her. i knew. i was like, oh, my god, something terrible has happened. >> coming up -- where was amber? police and the nation joined the search and a new lead sends a mother on a dangerous mission. across the border. >> we had advised her not to go because there would be great reason for them to kidnap her and hold her. >> when "in broad daylight" continues. ♪
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>> then came friday, february 13th, 2009 when she wasn't home. the day her mom carrie mcgonigle discovered she never went to school at all. >> she never wanted to miss school. she had the check in her pocket for the lamb. there was no way she was missing that day. >> she called her ex-husband, her father, moe. >> what did her voice sound like? >> complete panic. >> i went to the school and looking all around the school, dumpsters, anything for a backpack. >> what could they do. printed flyers, called their friends. >> probably had 15 show up right away. >> as were the police. >> they were out with a black and white picture of amber. i handed them a colored flyer and said this is a much better picture of amber. >> escondido police combed the neighborhood, the school, the creek behind it, worked all night said captain bob benton.
>> have you seen her by chance? >> it's now saturday morning and still no sign of amber. very concerning to us. >> and then later that day, a break. somebody had seen her near the school. >> describing how she had a hoody on, that it was drizzly. he described her as walking hurriedly, so he thought she was late to school. >> then someone else had seen amber near this fire hydrant with a boy. >> basically, i said, there's amber, made notice that she was there. >> the boy was described as tall, about six to eight inches taller than amber, doughy looking and dark complected. >> who was that boy? was amber with someone? she had been missing a day when the phone company called. her cell was active somewhere nearby. >> somebody had tried to access voicemail. and it hit on the same cell phone tower that covers both amber's home and the school. >> so police sent out what amounted to a reverse 911 call.
>> this is an important message from the escondido police department regarding a missing juvenile at risk. the missing juvenile is amber leeann dubois. >> it's a recorded message that we can send out to all the homes in the area. we did it for a several-mile radius around the cell phone tower. >> brown hair, blue eyes last seen wearing all dark clothing. >> if you seen her, you know her, please call her. >> as the news spread people did call. a classmate reported seeing amber in downtown escondido saturday, february 14th, early evening. but local surveillance cameras picked up nothing. then sunday the 15th a second classmate said he saw her walking with a boy. >> the sighting on sunday night was deemed to be as reliable as could be. >> each sighting sent hope soaring but not in carrie, because she knew amber was not a runner. >> i'm like, it wasn't her. i'm telling you right now it wasn't her. she would not be this close to
home and not come home. >> day and night the search went on. the fbi joined in. volunteers did too. searching out buildings, vacant sheds. >> we don't know what's gone on here but we do check that out as a matter of course. >> search and rescue teams scoured miles of brush-choked ravines, hidden places around rocky hills. >> also in this area what we found out was a place where a lot of kids go to party. it's called the caves and it consists of a real rocky area, mountainous area. >> but no sign of amber. >> this has been going on now for several days. as it goes on, we get a little more worried about. >> what was it like for the two of you as those days kept going by and no word, nothing? >> life stops. nothing matters anymore. we don't sleep. we don't eat. >> go into great depressions some days and other days you can see some kind of light. >> the police set up a task force, assigned search teams. volunteers came out, hundreds of them. >> i have three daughters myself and i just cannot imagine what
those parents are going through. >> i look around and i see a bunch of flickers of hope is what i'm seeing. >> someone has her. she's not just hiding from me or hiding from the house. someone has her. >> it kept us up at nights going over in our heads over and over of what happened that morning in front of the school. >> if amber was alive -- and that was a big if -- where could she be? >> if she left, she left with somebody she knew. so who was that person? >> if you know where amber dubois is tonight -- >> they told the amber story on "america's most wanted." she was on the cover of "people" magazine. and what happened? suddenly sightings coast to coast, hundreds of them. >> there was one girl who looks so much like amber that she had to keep carrying her i.d. on her because law enforcement would stop her so many times. i'm not amber. she had to show the i.d., i'm not amber. >> captain benton's team ran
down every tip in every state, 1200 of them. 500 interviews. even though -- >> the more we investigated it, the more we came up into dead-ends. >> and carrie? ran her own private task force of one. when tips came in of sightings in mexico, carrie got in her car and drove 45 miles south across the border into tijuana, another 60 miles to mexicali to scour the streets for amber. >> i always let law enforcement know what i was doing. so i called them and i said, i'm going to go down -- we don't know how dangerous it is. >> we advised her not to go because if somebody down there knew that she had -- at that point, i think a $40,000 or $50,000 reward, there would be great reason for them to kidnap her and hold her down there. >> i said it's for my kid. they said we wish you wouldn't go. i said bye. i'll call you when i get back. i went four or five times. >> but no amber in mexico.
>> she had a list of registered predators and she'd take a dozen a night. >> we had a call from an apartment complex manager that a female was yelling at individuals in the apartment complex. when officers arrived, it was carrie mcgonigle yelling at a registered sex offender and the sex registrant actually was complaining to the apartment manager and the apartment manager asked us to ask her to leave. >> the threat of arrest didn't scare her. >> i'm like, so what. it will get amber's face out there more. go ahead. >> then the weeks begin months and ginning up hope got hard to do. the volunteers once a small army thinned, stop coming. >> we had days where we'd have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people. but then it would steadily drop down to points where there was weeks where we had like eight people show up. >> in june, four months after amber disappeared, the volunteer search center closed. on february 13th, 2010, they
marked the somber anniversary. >> our biggest fear is going our entire careers, if not our lifetime, and not knowing what happened to amber dubois and the likelihood of solving this case was very limited, if at all. >> and then -- >> the search is on this morning for a missing 17-year-old poway girl chelsea king. >> -- it happened again. another mystery. and another anguished mother. >> please just help us bring her home. >> she's a great kid. >> she's such is a good girl. she needs to come home. >> when "dateline" continues. isn't this the yogurt that, you know... helps regulate your digestive system. ooh, i think i'll pass. no, no, no! trust me. it is beyond tasty. mmm! wow! i can't believe it, i love it! mmm, this is really good! new best tasting activia ever! ♪ activia now you can join the fight against breast cancer every time you enjoy an activia. give hope with every cup of activia.
ten miles away in a suburb of san diego. >> i'm talking to the captain almost a year, same month. i'm like how can -- >> it began in a parking lot near a popular local hiking trail. >> we get calls oftentimes about juveniles, girls, runaways. >> two san diego county sheriff's deputies responded to a call from panicked parents. >> this one i think made the hair stand up on our neck. >> 17-year-old chelsea king, straight-a student college-bound had come to rancho bernardo park like she often did did for a brisk five mile run. broad daylight. a well known, well used, safe hiking trail. which skirted the marshy banks of a long, shallow lake. but then she was late. didn't answer her cell. didn't return her parents' messages. chelsea's dad called the cell phone provider, which looked up the tower her signal was
hitting. led her dad to her phone, which was inside her locked car in that parking lot. >> and just finding her car, it was unusual. it was not just somebody -- a teenager out here with her boyfriend. made me think that maybe something had gone wrong. >> it certainly had. >> chelsea king is described as having strawberry blond hair. >> and now another public nightmare began. >> anybody out there who knows anything please just help us bring her home. >> she's a great kid. >> she's such a good girl. she needs to come home. >> word got around fast. >> we immediately felt what they were going through. >> i was ready to get in my car and go. i want to go help search. i followed my instincts. >> bon yee dumanis was one of the first to get the news. >> everybody began to think of amber right from the beginning i think. i think that's what made everybody so scared about
chelsea. >> why? >> knowing this had happened with amber. >> amber, who was in some ways so similar. >> beautiful girl. both 5'5", both light complected. >> that very thursday afternoon within hours of chelsea's disappearance, friends fandz out around the park, the neighborhood around it. even total strangers joined in. and just along here programs two miles from chelsea's abandoned car between a creek bed and a row of houses, as the cold settled in and the daylight failed -- >> one of the people that are coming from the neighborhood to search came across a pair of underwear and socks that did not appear trampled or discarded. they were right in the center of the walking trail. >> it could have been anyone's, of course. but how did they get here? >> and they seemed to be freshly there. >> was there a connection? sergeant dave brown sent a detective out to the trail. >> right around the trail here. >> right along this trail just a little further down. the parents said, yes, that's
the type that she wears. >> was there a clear indication there might be dna? >> yes. there was a small amount of blood that was found. >> it didn't look good. they sent the clothes to the dna lab for confirmation. and dee employed a virtual army. helicopters with infrared tracking, search and rescue teams. hundreds of people began beating the impossibly tangled thickets around thousands of acres of rancho bernardo park land. and divers made their way through the lake and the underwater forest. you can see the shoreline over there and the shoreline over here. it's very, very thick and the trees in the middle are hidden by the deep water. >> sergeants don parker led the operation. >> so you can see a little bit of the difficulty. for instance, just here, if you take one step, you have to part the brush and look. you take another step, you have to part the brush. that's the way it was that day, the thursday night. >> night fell. still no sign of chelsea. where was she?
on these miles of trails in this vast park? >> there's a lot of places you can hide somebody. that's our problem. as you can see this is a very, very expansive area. there's a lot of ache rj here. >> by friday, the day after chelsea's disappearance there were k-9 units, trucks, four-wheelers. >> we had hundreds and hundreds of folks coming from all over southern california. people were up for hours and hours and hours. >> sergeant bill gormaned the phone. >> there was a call by the fbi saying i have 25 agents where do you want them. border patrol were there. >> the fbi canvassed 300 homes around the lake. the police ran down tips. the areas' sex offenders were checked with as well. >> thousands came to look for
chels chelsea. amber's parents among them. >> it was huge. the line of people was eight people wide. went around the whole building all the way out to the street. >> but this was not like the search for amber. there were no sightings of chelsea. >> this case was pretty specific. we believed that she was out and went jogging in that park. and the fact she didn't come back leads you to believe there was some type of foul play right from the beginning. >> which is why the sheriff called dave brown and his team of homicide detectives. >> there were certain things about this missing person case that concerned the people that were investigating it. one of them was the clothing found. found really far away, a couple miles from where her car was found. there's no rational explanation for it. >> no rational explanation except foul play. then next day, the second discovery. it was a mile from the place where the underwear and socks were found near a running trail.
a shoe which appeared to be the very shoe chelsea was wearing in this photo. >> it was laying on the brush on top. looked like someone had either thrown it or dropped it right there. >> the way these things are so far apart from each other, we figured foul play. whether or not she's deceased. whether or not she's just being held somewhere, we can't answer that. >> the chance they'd find chelsea alive was growing slim. the chance they'd find her at all was not much better. now there were two girls gone. but where? coming up -- >> it was more of a hope that they were somehow connected. >> chelsea, amber, might there be a link? police are about to get a break. >> we need to find out everything we can about this person. >> when "in broad daylight" continues. introducing the samsung fascinate powered by verizon.
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in the back of your mind you're hoping that someone has her held against her will. so the detectives don't want to go home. nobody wants to go home. nobody wants to sleep. but to find her. >> it was like a nightmarish deja vu. amber due brois vanished in san diego county. a sherch turned up nothing. now a year later in a neighboring town another teenage girl was gone. another search going nowhere. were the two connected? that's what the cop who searched for amber wondered. >> it was more of a hope they were somehow connected and it would help us solve the amber case. >> and so he watched as search and rescue literally beat the bushes and probed the treacherous muddy water. and detectives in suits worked the neighborhoods nearby. >> find out who her friends are, where she was, talking to anybody and everybody who might have been in the park that day hoping to find something. >> and they were trying to make sense of evidence scattered around the park.
chelsea's car was parked here. underwear with a slight stain of blood had been found on a trail here. a shoe a mile away. >> in the back of our minds we know it's a matter of time before we -- we may get the results of this dna. that will also prove if those are actually her items of clothing and shoe. >> then three days after chelsea disappeared, more clothes surfaced not far from where the first items were found. the mate to the first shoe and a sports bra here in a ditch. >> an area that we had searched and didn't find anything of value. >> what did you think when you found that stuff? >> there was an idea that maybe articles were being randomly thrown or scattered to throw us off of a trail, throw us off of a lead. >> was chelsea still in that park? was she dead or alive? and one more question. had anyone else been attacked in that park? and sure enough, a student home for the holidays also a jogger
reported that she had been attacked while running on a trail near where those first items of clothing were found. that was december, two months before chelsea vanished. what's chilling is it happened literally within feet of a whole row of houses. but what was good was the young woman could provide a description of her attacker and what he tried to do. he was white, she said, maybe 25 or 26, stocky, muscular, brown hair, military-type cut. she was running along the path and this guy tackled her from the side, pinned her down. and she, understanding what was coming, said you'll have to kill me. he said, that can be arranged. but she knew taekwondo and she caught him in the nose with her elbow and he reacted. she wriggled away and ran like the wind out of there. other witnesses offered a vague description of a man they had seen in the park the day chelsea disappeared. white male, heavyset.
did they have a serial attacker on their hands? was this part of the park his territory? sunday afternoon february 28th. chelsea had be missing for three days. how did you have deal with the parents? >> i didn't have any answers for them. at one point they asked for a tour of the various items that were found. >> so sergeant brown showed the kings where some of chelsea's clothing was found. >> we got the positions where we could point it out. that's where we found this. that's where we found that. >> that's when the detectives' phone rang. >> the dna came back. >> the dna on the clothing. it confirmed it was chelsea's but produced something else too, the most important discovery yet. inside that clothing was a second person's dna and the lab got a hit. >> and it came back to a sex registrant. >> chelsea's parents were standing beside him. >> did you tell them that? >> no, i did not. >> but the tour was over. sergeants brown gathered his team.
>> we had a name and a prison number and we need to find out everything we can about this person. >> the dna match was to a convicted sex offender named john gardner, a man who spent five years in prison for a sex assault back in 2000. >> is it a mixed blessing that comes back to a sex registrant that's done time in prison? that's -- you know, that's not a positive note. but at least we knew who and where it was. and we knew we were going to close in. >> the search for gardner began that afternoon. >> we sent undercover people to watch the houses that might be where he lives. >> they approached carefully, watched from a distance. it was a slim chance, but what if he was holding her, saw the cops, panicked. >> in the back of everybody's mind, she's alive and you think maybe she's tied up somewhere. maybe she's being held captive. we're going to find her and we're going to find her tonight. >> but she wasn't in any of those houses and neither was he.
instead, they found gardner in a bar often the north side of the lake from the very park chelsea had been running, fernando's hideaway and this was weird. his clothes were wet and muddy as if he had been wading in the lake for some reason. sent him to the sheriff's lockup. sent lineup photographs to the woman now in college who had survived the attack earlier in the park. >> she picked john gardner immediately. >> what had this man with the wet and muddy clothes done with chelsea king? and for that matter, delaware know anything about that other missing girl amber dubois? coming up, the interrogation begins and police are in for a ride. >> rolled back in the chair, did a full-on belly laugh. laughed for an extended period of time. >> when "dateline" continues. you want to make a big screen... bigger. and you want to make a long flight... shorter. and you want to relive every little detail. and you want to rediscover something you've seen your whole life.
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park. now john gardner, 30 years old, was behind bars. how did he react to being arrested? >> very unhappy. wanted to know why he was being arrested. believed the accusations were false. >> detectives pat o'brien, scott enyeart, scott palmer confronted gardner in an interrogation room. >> we believed and hoped chelsea was still alive someplace. so we kept squg where is chelsea king. >> how did he respond to that? >> he denied everything. he denied ever coming into contact with her. he basically said the only information he had was from the television. >> but you were able to say, listen, pal, we've got your dna. >> we did. we approached him with the dna and he called us liars. >> what was his demeanor? >> he was all over the place. he was calm one minute, angry one minute. you know, on the verge of crying the other minute. >> he thought part of it was humorous to him and part of it was just offensive, how dare we
even consider him as a suspect. he made it perfectly clear that he hated law enforcement. he said he was treated poorly while he was in the department of corrections and hated cops for that reason. >> gardner had been arrested here at this bar called hernandez's hideaway, drunk, wet and muddy. he told the detectives he slipped in some mud and hopped in the lake to rinse off. >> first thing that comes to our mind is why is he in the lake? hernandez hideaway is on the north end of lake hodges. >> but the evidence, those bits of chelsea's clothing, were found on the south end of the lake. >> so now we're thinking, has he placed chelsea somewhere on the north side of the lake and he's going to retrieve or see if she's still there? >> you're looking for clues that he's going to give you verbally or nonverbally or whatever. >> the questioning was strictly limited to this -- where was chelsea? >> our sole purpose was to find chelsea king alive and get her
some kind of help so we couldn't go into too much detail about why and what we were doing. we kept trying to keep him focused to find out what did you do with her. >> the suspect wouldn't budge. they kept prodding. >> so scott has got a photograph of chelsea king and continually pushed it in front of him. he would glance at it. he wouldn't look at it very long. but then he'd continue deny, deny, deny. scott would keep talking to him, where is she, where is she? and then he would go off on some tangent. >> did you get any sense of the sort of personality you were dealing with when you talked to him? >> yes. psychotic. had some major anger issues. >> they left the room for a few minutes, watched him on a video monitor as gardner looked at a photo of chelsea. >> and basically called chelsea a bitch, why are you doing this to my life? and flipped the paper away. >> then out of the blue in
midinterview said the detectives, gardner surprised them. he brought up a name, the name of a girl who had disappeared more than a yearly earlier. >> a photo of chelsea is sitting in front of him. at some point he said, you guys in essence are probably going to try to finger me for that amber girl's disappearance. >> asked where she was. he played it off -- he wouldn't even pronounce her last name properly. >> at that point detectives safeguardner began laughing hysterically. >> rolled back in the chair did a full-on belly laugh. laughed for an extended period of time. >> at some point you realize that's it, you're not going to get anything out of this guy? >> correct. we definitely knew walking out of there he's guilty. there's nothing we could do at that point. >> nothing but redouble the effort to finds chelsea. still chelsea's parents couldn't help but hope that the arrest of gardner had brought them a step closer to finding their daughter. >> we gave up hope that chelsea is still there. we just have to find her.
so i'm not going to think about who he is, what he is. >> there is an incredible amount of rage that boils but right now we're focused on chelsea. >> rage? yes, of course. but imagine what brent king might have felt when he learned just a little more, as you will too, about the history of mr. john gardner. >> the man was evaluated ten years previously by a board-certified psychiatrist who found that he was a danger and a continuing danger to the public and apparently that warning was not listened to. i was shocked. >> coming up -- who was john gardner really? good friend? >> john told us what had happened. >> or sinister offender? >> this was a man who started out being violent. >> two very different pictures come into focus.
sunday february 28, three days of searching, no chelsea king. but there was an arrest and john gardner in custody was at least some kind of comfort for chelsea's parents. >> i was relieved that the monster is no longer out there and able to do this to anyone else. >> who was john gardner? by the time they arrested him, police had assembled some disturbing information. this would not go down well in san diego county. >> he had been a convicted sex offender. the initial crime was serious. he was convicted for six years for sexual assault in 2000, i believe it was. >> in fact, he had served five
years of that sentence for sexually assaulting and brutally beating his 15-year-old neighbor. this is where in march 2000 gardner became a sex offender. it was daytime, his own mother's house. he was 20 then, invited a 13-year-old over to watch videos with him. he began groping her. she begged him to stop. he intensified his attack. she resisted. he began beating her severely. the incident left her so traumatized, her family had to move to a different part of california. but gardner denied it all. he even blamed the beating on the victim's mother. jennifer brandt was a friend of gardner's back then. >> i remember john had come up to the mountains and told us what had happened and that he was going to have to go to court for this. >> they went to high school together in the san bernardino mountains 100 miles from san diego. >> he told us it wasn't him, it was the girl had a boyfriend and
he thought that the girl just didn't want to admit to her parents that she was having sex with her boyfriend because it might have gotten her in trouble. so she was going to blame the neighbor, being john. >> she and their circle of friends all believed him, she says. the john gardner they knew was a good friend, always helpful. he confided in her ed been diagnosed as bipolar. >> he did display, i guess, symptoms of it. really hyes and really low lows. and on one of the occasions that he was in a low, he started telling me about the things that happened in his childhood that a family member had actually molested him. >> gardner and his mother moved to san diego from the mountains in 1998. according to court records he was working at a sporting goods store when he was arrested in 2000. he was about to turn 21. wanted to become a math teacher. his arrest put an end to those plans. gardner always proclaimed his
innocence but agreed to a plea deal, telling his probation officer, three attorneys warned him he'd get reamed if he went to trial. but before he was sentenced, the court ordered a forensic psychiatrist to evaluate gardner, to help determine whether he should receive probation or how long he should be in prison. >> it was a very serious offense. even though it was the first time. this was a man who started out being violent. >> dr. mark kalish is a forensic psychiatrist who has read the documents on this case. he's also a colleague of the doctor who wrote the evaluation. that doctor, matthew carroll, declined "dateline's" request for an interview. >> it's a rare case where the individual starts out in their first offense by assaulting the victim. and so that was a warning sign to dr. carroll that this was not the typical case, this was a man who was on a very, very steep
trajectory for future violence. >> the psychiatrist's warnings, as noted in gardner's probation report, were dire. the defendant manifest significant predatory traits to underage females. the defendant would be a continued danger to underage girls in the community. and it would be unlikely that the defendant would be amenable to treatment. the psychiatrist recommended the maximum sentence allowed by law. >> in my experience -- i don't think that i've ever seen a psychiatrist make a louder and clearer call. >> and the doctor who evaluated gardner was apparently so concerned about him, he followed up his report with a phone call to gardner's probation officer, with yet another warning. the defendant does not suffer from a psychotic disorder, he said. he is simply a bad guy who is inordinately interested in young girls. such calls are rare, says dr.
kalish. >> when psychiatrists become desperate, we pick up the phone. >> yet despite those warnings, the prosecutor, probation officer and judge all decided that john gardner should get a midlevel sentence of six years rather than ten years, which would have been the maximum sentence under the plea deal. >> i have reviewed this case with the glasses of having been a prosecutor, having been a municipal court judge, superior court judge and now the d.a. >> bonlee dumanis is the san diego county d.a. she was not the d.a. at the time the crime occurred. we asked to speak to the prosecutor in that case but were told ms. dumanis would answer our questions. >> what happened in this case was appropriate under the laws that existed. >> this was a midrange sentence as opposed to the maximum? >> that's right. >> in spite of a psychiatrist report that said this guy is really dangerous and always will be dangerous.
why would that not have jacked it up to a full ten-year sentence? >> first of all, there were two psychiatric reports. one was saying he was a danger. one was saying that he was treatable and recommended inpatient treatment for 90 days and probation. >> but this is a guy that had seen him once in five years. >> but he examined him just as much as the guy who saw him for an hour. he had actually treated him. >> but that report was only one factor in the sentencing decision. there were glowing character references. "i know in my heart of hearts john gardner is a rare and good breed." "i dated him for a year and a half. john is the one person that made me feel completely safe in the world." "i believe john will become a great man, husband, father." >> 20 years old, no prior record. and the presumption of the law was middle term. >> six years, out after five. and you in this.
the second-guessing went on hold for the moment because just now there was a far bigger issue. what had john gardner done with chelsea king? was she still alive? and if so, where? coming up -- >> everybody's pager went off. and everybody's heart sank. >> the mystery surrounding chelsea would be solved very soon. i needed more customers, so i got my nephew to build a website. i hired someone to make my website... five months ago. we are building a website by ourselves. announcer: there's an easier way. create your own small-business site with intuit websites. just choose a style that fits your business and customize, publish and get found in three easy steps. sweet. all from just $4.99 a month, get a 30-day free trial at intuit.com.
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as john gardner sat in a san diego sheriff lockup, sergeant dave brown working the chelsea king case took an urgent phone call. >> the investigators from escondido called us. >> investigators on the amber dubois case in the neighboring town of escondido had a question. was your guy also our guy? >> i sat in my car and had a teleconference with them. >> the arrest of john gardner sat off a small earthquake among the cops searching for amber. >> they had been sending e-mails to me trying to get ahold of us.
we were a little busy. to talk about their case about. >> but they kept talking. even as they wrapped up search for chelsea. hoping she was alive flickered but held. it was day five of the search for chelsea. that day her parents worked on plans for a vigil, a sign no one was giving up. >> it's just going to be one less thing about chelsea when she comes home. she's going to see and want to give back a thousand times over. >> if amber's parents hadn't given up, they said, neither would they. the kings met amber's parents when they came out to help in the search. >> the strength that they displayed is driving us. when moe looks me in the eyes and says, don't worry, we're going to find her, that's strengths. >> out in the park tuesday morning, search and rescue teams continued to search the brush and waterway. they would do
shoulder-to-shoulder go underwater, look, come back up, check to make sure they were in a line because they have to do it systematically. >> how many times did they do that? >> i want to say we did it six times. six or seven times we searched this entire area here. >> the shoreline here had particular interest because chelsea's shoe had been found just a few feet from here. so the shoe was basically in this area. >> just laid on top of the brush. then from here we go north straight to the -- straight to the water. >> that afternoon downtown, the homicide team was called to a meeting with d.a. bonnie dumanis. >> once he was arrested, we knew there was going to be a prosecution. >> dumanis by that tuesday had few illusions left about finding chelsea alive. >> the circumstances were such that we felt it was a murder case and a potential death penalty case. >> thus, the meeting with homicide detectives.
what case are you going to present? >> charge him with murder and we still didn't have a -- we didn't have a body. >> then that's when it happened. >> the detectives were presenting the case when everybody's pager went off. and everybody's heart sank. >> it was chelsea. rescue divers had found her body. >> it wasn't a boat. beached the boat literally right here. then him and his partner actually started walking this way and shortly thereafter noticed an area a little bit further this way and that's when chelsea was found. >> it was that small area which had been searched so many times, the place the shoe was found 15 feet from the edge of the water. a shallow grave. there's a little shrine around it now.
a patch of decorated earth. sheriff gore delivered the news. >> that was probably the longest drive i've ever had in my life to go to the king house and it was just -- >> news that nobody in law enforcement ever wants to deliver. >> it was just heart wrenching. >> it was the worst day of our lives ever. and there's no deeper pain that we'll ever feel again. so i have despair. >> what type of creature would do this? >> not far away, amber dubois's mother carrie heard the news too. the reaction was almost physical. >> when they said her body was found, i started panicking. i don't want to bury amber. i would rather have her missing
than bury her. it hit me hard. >> that evening there was to have been a search vigil for chelsea became a memorial instead. thousands came. >> she's my angel for ever. she wants to thank you and chelsea wants to thank you. keep her spirit alive for us. >> john albert gardner. >> gardner was in court the next day charged with murdering chelsea king or committing a rape. he was also charged with assault with intent to commit rape for the attack on that student back in september. >> mr. gardner wishes to enter a plea of not guilty to both counts. >> amber's father was at the hearing. afterwards he worried what this meant for his daughter. >> in the back of our head, we are kind of concerned that there is a connection. >> and though no one had proved john gardner's guilt, around san diego he had become infamous, public enemy number one. and as people here learned more about that 2000 case, the psychiatrist's report and
gardner's failure to reveal where he was staying, the outrage boiled over. >> i think pretty much all of san diego county is completely disgusted with this. >> during the week before the attack on chelsea, gardner had been staying with his mother a few blocks from the park in which chelsea was murdered. in fact, it was the very same house in which he attacked that 13-year-old back in 2000. but when police had gone around the neighborhood looking for sex offenders, they did not come to this house. no reason to. >> he was actually registered at his grand mother's house in lake elsinore. so gardner would not come up in that search because he was registered in lake elsinore. >> and that was 50 miles away, another county. >> the mother never forced john to report it. he may have met all the guidelines only coming down a certain amount of days, but people felt threatened not knowing that a sex registrant
was living that close to them. >> once the news broke, gardner's mother seemed to be trying her best to hide from the media, from the public anger. anger so strong, someone spray-painted these words on her house holding her along with her son accountable for chelsea's death. >> if i was them and i saw that, i would move out. move out of the area. >> and when some of gardner's friends came by to paint over those words, they were driven away. >> get the hell out of here. i can see the sympathy you have for her. i can see it in your eyes. get the hell out of this neighborhood. you don't belong here. >> in the midst of that public shock and anger, detectives in the chelsea case again considered those calls and e-mails from their fellow cops that had been looking for amber dubois. was there a connection? maybe. >> we realized that john gardner was a resident of escondido and was one of our registered sex
offenders back in the time that amber disappeared. that's when the light bulb went off. >> coming up -- the race to find amber. were detectives getting closer? and was this suspect number one? hey, dude, you got to -- please, don't even talk to me until i had my coffee. okay. oh, hey, tim. i -- sorry. i haven't had my coffee yet. [ barks ] no. morning. welcome to mcdonald's. can i interest you in a -- not before i had my coffee. ...premium roast coffee for just a dollar? talk to me. [ male announcer ] mcdonald's dollar menu at breakfast. try a cup of freshly brewed premium roast coffee for just a dollar each every day. and you'll see why nobody makes breakfast like mcdonald's. ♪ love your scarf. it's beautiful out, huh? [ courier ] i'm a legal courier. if i have to look at multiple cases, with blackberry torch i can have multiple tabs going,
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the arrest of john gardner for the murder of chelsea king prompted some serious rethinking a few miles up the road in escondido. amber dubois's parents, for example, remembered something about that man. he was a registered sex offender in escondido at the time amber vanished. this w >> this was one of the people on your crazy list going around at night. >> 148 at the time. but, yeah, it was one of them. >> john gardner turned out had been living here in this apartment complex in escondido at the time amber disappeared. >> some of my volunteers did wait outside of his apartment looking for him and just see what he drove or whatever. but they never made contact with him. >> after his arrest, carrie
couldn't see how gardner could be connected to her daughter's disappearance. >> gardner seems to attack those that are by themselves and amber was last seen by two eyewitnesses in front of the school. and for him to do that in front of all those kids just seemed really unlikely. >> police had also been aware of john gardner. but finding evidence now that he was somehow involved in amber's disappearance was not going to be easy. yes, gardner was a known sex offender who in fact lived two miles from the school. police here in escondido had regular contact with him, as they do with all sex registrants. but there was no reason then, said captain bob benton, to suspect him. >> in every one of the contacts he was in compliance with his sex registrant requirements and wasn't in the area where she went missing. he wasn't in the area where the sightings were. and he was not considered to be high risk. >> not officially at least. though there was, as everybody
would discover, much more to learn about that. gardner did have a brush with the law in the spring of 2009 after amber disappeared. a woman in a parking lot flagged down a police officer to complain gardner had been following her in his car. when the cop confronted him? >> he had asked him why he was following this female. and he had responded that he had -- this woman had cut him off in traffic. >> as the cop talked to gardner, something else caught his eye. this known sex offender had a 3-year-old in the car with him. >> that was of obvious concern to the stopping officer. why is the sex reg trant with a 3-year-old child? >> it turned out it was his girlfriend's child. she verified the story. and besides, he was off parole, had no restrictions at all about being around small children. but now after his arrest for the murder of chelsea king, the amber task force went back and reviewed everything.
amber's cell phone records, internet hits, all those leads during a year of searching. >> looking at all 1200 tips, seeing if there was anything in there on john gardner. and there wasn't. there was no connection at all linking him and amber dubois. >> so they looked back to the day she went missing. two witnesses had seen amber in front of the school. one of them said she was with a boy. >> must be somebody that knew her or she knew that she felt comfortable with. and, again, we are looking for a boy. >> a year later, detectives began thinking back to that particular witness description. >> one of the witnesses had last seen amber walking with a tall doughy dark-skinned boy, which somewhat described john gardner. and we were thinking, well, it's possible that based on it being a drizzly day, lighting is limited, a parent who is just
driving up and looking at a boy, maybe appears to be younger than he actually was. >> now police reinterviewed the witnesses. and the residents of gardner's apartment complex and his girlfriend. all dead-ends. then a tip came in which sent the divers to a park in escondido. two children told their mother they might have seen a body in a bag around a pond. >> i was watching all the divers and they were going through all the muck and i'm like nervous of course when they're doing this. >> search and rescue teams drain the pond. searched through reeds and brush surrounding it. and nothing. yet another dead-end. >> and i'm like, whew, it was such a relief knowing there's no way she could be in that because they're all down to the bottom. >> so a little spark of hope rose to the surface again. >> absolutely 100% -- >> still had john gardner ever
run into amber? was he involved? even if no one could prove it? >> if we ever start to believe that gardner is connected to amber, it's basically us losing hope. you know, and we're not going to do that. we're going to deny it until we have an answer and we have our daughter home. >> but out here among the searchers of this sad little pond, moe dubois could have no idea that farther south in san diego, sergeant brown had already embarked on a very unusual errand. >> you can say it was a unique day. >> but just where he was going he had no idea. >> he just guided us up the street. he explained where we would probably turn off on a dirt road. and we did just that. >> a journey down a dirt road? where could it possibly lead?
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just drive, we'll get there! adventure runs on dunkin', with our egg white breakfast sandwiches. hurry in and try one in delicious veggie or turkey sausage. it happened even as search and rescue teams were wading through that escondido pond following what might be a lead in amber dubois's disappearance. 20 miles south in downtown san diego, d.a. bonnie dumanis
received a mysterious request to meet with gardner's attorney. >> we didn't discuss what it was. >> gardner had been claiming, remember, he had nothing to do with amber's disappearance. but this morning his lawyer offered a deal and it was huge. gardner would lead detectives to amber, but he'd only do it on one condition, that they couldn't use it against him. >> if we didn't use the fact that he took us there in any -- as evidence in any court proceeding and that his attorney had to be present and we couldn't question him in any way. >> she took the deal. and sergeant brown's phone rang. >> we got told to go down to the jail and we were going to go on a field trip with gardner. >> and sergeant brown and his men were told the rules. >> this was not his confession, but he was going to show us where it was. >> they had 30 minutes to
prepare, call the s.w.a.t. team for back-up. why? >> this could be an escape attempt. >> come on! >> the guy is in jail for murder. we have his dna and now he wants to go on a field trip with a couple of detectives? he's a big guy. this might not go well. >> so off they went, gardner showing them the way. a detective surreptitiously texting directions to undercover cars around them. >> we set them up and as we drove on the freeway we knew where we were going to pick them up. different cars different on ramps. >> this is where they drove, to an indian reservation. up that dirt track to the top of a rocky hill. she's in there somewhere, he told them. this is 20 miles from where she disappeared. did you ever know where you were going or get a sense -- >> no. if you notice this cliff, goes
off the cliff here. to get his bearings and try to remember, he would -- exactly. i would grab him. if he goes off this cliff, no one is going to believe me that he accidentally went off this cliff. >> he looked around, seemed confused. >> he came up and he went right to here to the edge and he says, right there. right about here. and he's not exactly certain. then he takes a few steps this way. changes his mind. >> what were you thinking as you're looking down at this? >> well, this isn't going to be a fun walk and, also, how did you get there? he tries to go there. he can't make it. then he comes back and resets and then he says, i think it's this way. honestly, we were frustrated. we still don't know if he's doing this just to get out of jail for the day. >> they were still watching for any escape attempt. and then gardner found afamiliar area. >> then he gets to about here and then he remembers. then he -- he says, this is it. this is it.
and he was, i dare say excited. >> detectives walked their shackled prisoner down a steep incline. >> so we were sliding down this -- >> i can see why you would. it's very steep. pushing their way through the thick brush and trees. until they got toon old rusted water tank. >> this is the tank. i remember holding him right there and he's pointing here saying this -- it was right about here. and he's also unsure of himself. i think right there. i think right there. >> then he saw something, a reminder. >> he leaned in to me and he said he could see the shovel mark and there was a distinctive mark that had held in the dirt like a nice clean slice against the mountain right there. i know it's going to be there because i had a shovel. that was enough. we pulled him out of here. >> what were you thinking? >> i worked in the homicide division. just used to it. but this was absolutely surreal he would bring me here and i know this case.
i know this girl. i lived in this community. this is on my newspaper and see her face or her poster on every business and store i go into. so and here i am and he's walking me to the grave. >> here was the spot he claimed to have buried amber dubois over a year ago in a thicket of trees on a hillside in the middle of nowhere. no houses anywhere. accessible by one dirt road. >> i don't believe anyone would have ever found this site. >> and then a small army was called. still in secret. to that lonely hill. detectives, a forensic archaeologist, medical examiner. for 12 hours they sifted meticulously through the dirt to find -- well, it had once been a person. up on the hill, captain benton made the next decision. >> we didn't want to notify the family not knowing whether it truly was amber or not. >> but the next day, saturday, the medical examiner had made a
positive identification. gardner had indeed led them to amber's remains. more calls to make. >> when we received the calls on saturday night, we immediately get a sinking feeling in our stomach because we've been called in many times to have talks. never at a -- >> a saturday. >> a saturday night at 8 k p.m. at night. >> would they come to the escondido police station? >> walking in there, seeing the medical examiners, all of our investigators were there, the minister, the sheriff's department d.a.'s office, you know what you're going to hear next. >> the medical examiner told us that her remains were found and they identified her through dental records. >> i can't say i was prepared to hear it. but after 386 days of searching, we're ready for anything they can tell us. give us an answer.
make us -- make this stop. >> what did you do after that, after that meeting the two of you? >> cried. for days. >> the escondido police chief made the announcement the next day, sunday, march 7th. two teenagers found dead in less than a week. >> human skeletal remains have been positively identified as being those of our missing 14-year-old amber. >> but what he didn't say to amber's parents or to anyone was the official secret, the fact that gardner had led them to the body. why not tell? because now investigators needed to prove gardner's guilt without using a shred of what he had shown or told them. >> escondido police and sheriff's department said they were following a lead in the case when they made this discovery. >> but, frankly, they were stunned. independent evidence? so far none. meaning gardner might never be charged with killing amber.
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>> the searches were over. they tried to figure out how to go on. >> i will channel my rage and commit to spending my life making our society safe from the incurable evil. >> there were thousands of these events, a measure of the upset, the impact of the killings. >> every single person out there who ever shed a tear for amber, for chelsea, i beg you to please put one minute of effort, one minute of action into helping protect our children. >> and while that was going on, investigators searched furiously for any evidence that would independently link john gardner to the death of amber dubois. >> what that included was finding every vehicle that he had at the time that -- or access to at the time that amber disappeared. and i believe there was four different vehicles. we had to find where every one of those vehicles were, have
them forensically examined. >> the investigation continued. and the days ticked from march into april when we sat with amber's parents. remember, they had not been told that gardner led police to amber's remains or even that gardner was known to be the man who abducted and killed her. we asked them if they were prepared never to know for certain who killed amber or how police found her. it may be that nobody is ever charged. may be you have to live with that -- how could you live with that not knowing? >> i'm more fearful that there might be another predator out there as opposed to more upset in not having the answer. i want to make sure whoever did this to amber is off the street. that's what scares me the most, you know. what if they never connect this to somebody and the person who did this is still out there and can do it again. >> but it was a different question carrie had on her mind.
what happened to amber? she wanted to know, had to know everything. >> you want to hear whoever did this tell you exactly what happened? >> mm-hmm. >> you do? >> oh, yeah, absolutely. >> i couldn't hear it from the person's mouth saying, i did this, i did that. i couldn't. i couldn't do it without wanting to reach over and cause myself to be in jail for a long time. >> but here on this april afternoon, the question was academic. more likely they would never know. strange the difference a week can make. it was april 15th, five days after our interview. amber's parents were called to a meeting where they learned for the first time who led authorities to their daughter's remains. >> we knew it was something significant because we had to go to downtown to go meet with the district attorney. >> and they were informed of an offer made by john gardner's attorneys. >> his attorneys came forward with an offer to plead guilty to
all of the charges with life without possibility of parole and waiving his appellate rights. >> in exchange, gardner's attorney wanted the death penalty off the table. so her dilemma. should she continue to develop her strong death penalty case in the murder of chelsea king? should she wait for the task force to link gardner to amber's death too? or would that ever happen? >> there was absolutely no link that anyone was able to finds between john gardner and amber. >> and so d.a. dumanis was faced with a choice. proceed only in the chelsea king case or make another deal to get some kind of justice for amber. >> you could have won pretty easily a death penalty case in the chelsea king case. why not just do that, get the death penalty for that one? >> the question was for the family. so the family i talked to was
chelsea's family, because we had no case on amber. and we talked about th fact that the end result with a life without possibility of parole is he'd die in prison. and there would be no appeals. >> so the kings were faced with a decision. would amber's parents ever learn what in fact happened to their daughter and would they see her killer pay for this crime? april 16th, the day after moe and carrie learned about the plea deal -- >> this is a special news report. >> san diego television stations interrupted their afternoon programs. >> the hearing is scheduled in the courthouse for john gardner. >> there was news, a lot of it all at once. >> let us take you live. there's john gardner right there. >> the truth of that allegation? >> yes. >> a stunning admission of guilt. first for chelsea king. >> you're admitting on february the 25th, 2010, you attacked chelsea king while she was
running, you dragged her to a remote area where you raped and strangled her, you then buried her in a shallow grave. do you admit that? >> yes. >> do you also admit that the killing was done with premeditation and deliberation? >> yes. >> and the murder took place within an hour of your initial contact of chelsea king. do you admit those facts as well? >> yes. >> then the jogger in december. >> do you admit that on december the 27th, 2009, you attacked candice moncayo while she was running and unlawfully assaulted her with the intent to rape her? >> yes. >> and after 14 months, an end to the mystery of what happened to amber dubois. >> you admit that on february the 13th, 2009, you took amber dubois to a remote area of pala where you raped and stabbed her? you then buried her in a shallow
grave? do you admit the truth of those facts? >> yes. >> you're also admitting that this murder took place within an hour and a half of your initial contact with amber dubois? do you admit all of those facts as well? >> yes. >> in exchange for a life sentence, gardner admitted all and pleaded guilty. it was a deal made possible because of a choice willingly made by one grieving family in an effort to spare more pain for another. >> the dubois family has been through unthinkable hell the past 14 months. we couldn't imagine the confession to amber's murder never seeing the light of day leaving an eternal question mark. >> and amber's parents were grateful. >> it would have been horrible. we would have been always wondering if he was connected and whether there was someone else out there. >> but now that she knew? now she was determined to come face to face with her daughter's
killer, no matter what it took. >> i want to talk to your son and find out why he murdered my daughter. >> coming up, an emotional meeting behind prison doors. >> what did you ask him? are you ready? i'm ready. john, your car is here. go get'em tiger. when you're hitting the road for business... good luck! ...enterprise will pick you up and get you on the road to success. pick enterprise. we'll pick you up.
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how do you plea? >> guilty. >> it was after john gardner stood in this san diego courtroom and pleaded guilty to the murders of chelsea king and amber dubois. it was as he waited for the formal sentencing, life in prison, that he knew was coming. from the san diego county jail cell, gardner gave an interview to a local tv station and said he would only talk to the families about what happened to chelsea and amber. >> as soon as i heard those words, it's all i focused on. >> because carrie, remember, was determined to know what happened to her daughter during the last minutes she was alive. >> i think if you're a parent, you want to know what happened. you want to know how they took her child, if a lesson can be learned from amber then i want it out there. >> and so early in may, she
began trying to arrange a visit. >> went through all the correct legal channels to try to get it and they kept insisting that i would meet with him after sentencing. i didn't want to meet with him after sentencing. >> she had to know now. she tried to schedule a visit. was told none was available. >> so carrie had a bold idea. why not ask gardner's mother to give up one of her visits with her son. and so one afternoon she waited outside the jail as gardner's mother approached. it didn't go well. >> look, i just want to visit your son. >> excuse me. >> don't touch me. >> don't touch me. >> get away from her. >> i'm not here to harass you. i want to talk to your son. and find out why he murdered my daughter. >> the next day, there was a phone call from the jailer. >> can you be here in a half hour?
>> somehow, the time was found for her talk with gardner. what was it like walking in there knowing you would talk to the guy who killed your daughter? >> i was real nervous up until i got there. going in there and talking with him just didn't really have any feelings with me. i had forgiven whoever had done this to amber when i got her remains back. so to me it was just a person talking. >> he was already sitting behind the partition when she arrived. >> i think maybe i glanced at him once about. >> what where were you looking? >> just down. just not at him. i really had no desire to look at him. >> why not? >> i didn't want to get angry or upset. i just wanted to stay focused. and so for me to stay focused, i just looked down, doodled on paper or whatever. i really wanted to stay in the mindset where i didn't start crying or get upset. >> what did you ask him?
>> walk me through your day. >> and now carrie would finally learn what happened to amber in the last hours of her life. >> he started, you know, in the morning him and his girlfriend got in a fight. >> so he took off in a car to blow off steam, he said. >> and he happened to drive by the street where amber was taken. why she was on that street, i don't know. >> it was not the way amber usually went to school. >> my guess is that she was probably going by her girlfriend's house that lives right around the corner. >> he snatched her here, gardner told carrie. >> he saw amber walking by herself. he turned and cut her off and told her, if you don't get in this car, i have a knife and a gun and things will be real bad for you. and she got in the car. he didn't have a gun but i don't know if he showed her the knife or not. i'm not sure. but he said she knew by the look in my eyes that i was serious.
there was no questions about it. and honestly, i think if she would have tried to run, he might have just killed her right there on the spot. >> did you ask him for more than that? >> yeah. he told me which way he drove. he's very detailed about the streets he went on. >> he stopped the conversation repeatedly, said carrie. >> asked me if he could -- if i wanted him to continue, you know. he got real upset every time i told him to continue. he said, i don't want to upset you. i'm like, you've already taken my daughter. continue. when it got to the rape part of it, he -- he, you know, pretty much begged -- please, can i stop? can i stop? and i'm like continue. he said, i don't want to. by the time -- by the time i left there, he was pretty much curled over sweating, complete crying. he was a mess. >> so he did have some feelings?
>> or he's a very good actor. >> so once you got the answers you knew you could get from him, did you say anything else to him then? >> no. he asked me are you going to tell me you hate me? are you going to yell and scream? i'm ready to hear that. i said no. and i hung up the phone and walked out. >> did you walk out a different person than you went in? >> i walked out of that place very happy, very just kind of giddy and i'm like, oh, my god, i can breathe. it's just such a relief. it really -- it was a great feeling. >> an unexpected reaction? perhaps. though how could anyone know how it feels to be carrie mcgonigle or to be the parents of chelsea king here in court on sentencing day? >> look at me. >> coming up. one last haunting question. are you saying then that the death of these two girls would
have been prevented? and a revelation from a mother. >> i said, wow, you just showed the whole world what amber and chelsea saw. . >> the look into the soul of a killer. coming up next friday on "dateline," in the dead of night. >> there was blood on the walls. >> beloved church-going grandparents murdered. >> very brutal crime scene. >> even more brutal, the accused murderers were family. the evidence damning. >> that was the real smoking gun. >> case closed except for a gold ring. whose was it? >> that's like looking for a needle in a haystack. >> what they found blew this case closed wide open. >> i know what happened and no one will believe me! ♪ ♪ ♪ [ bell rings ] ♪
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john gardner was guilty. no doubt about it, he was a predator and a murderer. all that was left to do was sentence him. so case closed? not really. for three months, a steady drip of news seemed to ask over and over how did they miss him? gardner, remember, spent five years in prison for sexually molesting and beating a 13-year-old girl back in 2000. he was paroled in 2005. >> everything that led up to him being free on the streets, allowing him to stalk our children. >> maddening because there had been fair warning. a psychiatrist's warning a decade earlier that he was very dangerous and should receive the maximum ten-year sentence under his plea deal. had that advice been taken,
gardner might still have been in prison even today. >> there's numerous, numerous times that he fell through the cracks. >> like, for example, his parole violations once he was released. the cops found marijuana in his car. for a time he lived too close to children. but the judgment of the parole department was not to bust him. and then the public discovered that gardner wore a gps monitor his last year on parole, which ended in 2008, just four months before amber disappeared. but no one was watching. and -- >> we found over 100 violations of parole that hadn't been previously discovered by the department. we missed some opportunities to remove him from society. >> dave shaw is the inspector general for the california department of corrections, the agency's watchdog, which after the fact looked into the gardner case. >> he spent time at -- adjacent
to day care centers, to schools, to parks, to playgrounds, to the beach. all places that he shouldn't have been at. and we didn't catch it because we weren't looking. >> nor was anyone watching when gardner drove into the parking lot of a state prison. gardner said it was to drop off a friend. but it's against the law for an ex-con to enter prison grounds. and that, san diego's d.a. told us, was a felony that would have locked him up for a very long time. >> we would have filed a three strikes case because his 2000 case was two strikes. and he'd be facing 25 years to life. >> rough saying, then, that the deaths of these two girls would have been prevented? >> what we're saying is had he been incarcerated, it would have been impossible for him to commit these particular crimes. and there were ample opportunities to either revoke his parole or to prosecute him. >> but no one at the time was monitoring gardner's gps. did you find really with
somebodies or some systems? >> we think it was the system that was at fault. we didn't find any particular fault on the part of the parole agents. the agents just weren't looking sat it because they weren't required to. >> listen to this. they weren't expected to track gardner's gps monitor because of the way a standardized assessment used by most states classified his potential as medium low risk. >> for the lower-risk offenders it was only used as a crime solving tool. >> matthew cate is the head of the california department of corrections. >> so if a crime is reported, then we would go back and look at the tracks to see if we could place the offender at the scene of the crime. >> gardner a lower risk offender? again says matthew cate it was the assessment itself that failed to classify him as dangerous. but when gardner was paroled -- >> this was the most accurate tool in the world. and so we used it.
i wish we knew then what we know now. but the department just didn't have anything else to use at the time. >> it's based on factors such as age, number of offenses, the type of crime. >> i think the public wants us to be able to predict who exactly is going to do what, we'll never be able to do that. low risk doesn't mean no risk. >> improvements are planned like more and better gps tracking of sex offender parolees and treatment for sex offenders and the use of polygraph tests in an effort to keep track of parolees, to see if they're in danger of reoffending. what do you say of a headline that says these two girls would be alive today if the system had done its job? >> i don't agree that any one thing necessarily would have made the difference. it's hard to know. we can learn from this. it's worth ten headlines if we get a little bit better and there isn't a next victim. >> we move then to the victim
impact statements. >> there is an emotional structure now to sentencing days in american courtrooms. wrenching, often deeply angry. >> and i pray every night that god shows you no mercy. >> and this is how it was with john gardner, listening sometimes attentively, sometimes not, to chelsea's parents. >> you dismantled a family life that was built on love, trust and faith that, but you did not destroy it. look at me. why am i not surprised? >> and to amber's. >> no one could appreciate the horrors that is my life, so they can't appreciate the joy that was my amber. >> then watch what happens when that earlier survivor of a gardner attack -- >> every day i lace up my shoes and relive the moments of terror. the other conviction that i was going to die --
>> watch what happens when she reminds him how she elbowed his nose to escape. >> and finally, to ask him how his nose is. >> was it rage he was expressing as he turned to his attorney and appeared to say, she didn't hit me. and even adds, she's saying it for publicity. >> you saw that look of rage. and i said, wow, you just saw the whole world what amber and chelsea saw before you killed them. >> but all this was formality really. already the people he left in his wake struggled what to do after. amber's parents are involved in search and rescue. >> building her legacy is going to be the search and rescue team. >> we're helping other people, and that gets me feeling better.
>> and chelsea's parents have taken on the system. >> if our laws were smarter and bolder, chelsea might still be here. >> so they pushed for a new law named for chelsea and just signed by the governor imposing stiffer sentences for sex offenders, increased terms of parole and improved monitoring and assessment of parolees. >> governor schwarzenegger, i thank you for your support and commitment. you've helped us fulfill our dream of doing everything in our power to prevent this tragedy from ever happening to another family again. >> chelsea should be in college now. and amber, a high school future farmer. instead, all their parents could do was watch authorities lead the killer away to a life in prison. and try