• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Gardner may be linked to IE attempted kidnap

March 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A convicted sex offender charged with raping and killing a Poway teenager may also be involved in the attempted kidnapping of a girl from Lake Elsinore in October.The list of cases that 30-year-old John Gardner may be linked to continues to grow. There are already four possible cases in San Diego County, and now the Riverside County Sheriff's Department is investigating his possible involvement to an attempted kidnapping in Lake Elsinore last year.

Riverside County officials are very interested in Gardner because a composite sketch, put together by a 16-year-old in October 2009, shows physical similarities to the convicted sex offender. The victim had claimed a man with a gun tried to force her into a car.

Gardner is a convicted child molester, registered at a home in Lake Elsinore, only about three miles from the location of the attempted kidnapping.

Neighbors say he was staying at the home with his grandmother, but wasn't living there full time.

"I'd just say hi, he'd be smoking a cigarette, he would say hi, and that was it," said one resident, who did not want to be identified. "A couple of times he was there a week, but on the whole, he wasn't, he would come and go."

Gardner was in court for the first time on Wednesday to face charges for murdering 17-year-old Chelsea King. He is also facing a second charge of attempting to sexually assault a female jogger, who was able to escape, in the same park as King disappeared from.

He pleaded not guilty to both charges. The pleas to the two charges were made by Gardner's attorney, a public defender.

Investigators are also considering whether Gardner stalked a 13-year-old girl in that park, and whether he is responsible for the disappearance of another teenager, Amber Dubois, last year.

King's parents spoke out Thursday, saying they want justice for their daughter.

"We are going to do everything in our power to work to change the way people like this are dealt with so that they can't be let free to roam around and hurt our children," said Kelly King, Chelsea's mother.

In the meantime, a community is still dealing with the shock of losing King, a well-liked Poway High School student. Neighbors said if they had known more about Gardner, they all would have been much more careful.

"This man is a monster, and we would have gone after this monster like any other monster in the world and taken it out," said James Asgher of Rancho Bernardo. "We did not know. We haven't slept. We're stressing. Our hearts are hurting."

Gardner's parents have had to leave their Rancho Bernardo home because of threats, including one painted on their garage door, blaming them for King's death.

Gardner is due back in court on Tuesday. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 18. He continues to be held without bail in solitary confinement.