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Warrants suggest Gardner followed 11-year-old

April 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
An 11-year-old girl told police a man followed her home from school the day before registered sex offender John Albert Gardner raped and murdered a 17-year-old girl in a nearby park, according to search warrants unsealed Monday.According to the documents, the 11-year-old watched as a man driving a black car slowly drove past her as she walked alone. Moments later a woman pulled up beside the girl and offered to follow her home to protect her from the suspicious looking man.

Police said Gardner then made a U-turn and drove away.

Investigators said these are just some activities Gardner was doing in the hours leading up to Chelsea King's death.

On the day she disappeared, police said Gardner was spotted in the park by two female joggers. One jogger said she even spoke to Gardner, who was drinking beer and smoking a cigarette near one of the trails.

During the conversation, he told her to watch out for a nearby rattlesnake. Minutes later, police believe Gardner raped and strangled King who was jogging nearby.

The body of the Poway teen was found five days later in a shallow grave that investigators say Gardner dug with sticks.

According to the search warrants, Gardner's semen was found on King's underwear, which were found near the crime scene.

Authorities seized 11 shovels, three pickaxes and other digging tools from Gardner's home in Lake Elsinore. They also found a tool case with black electrical and duct tape in a storage unit in suburban Escondido; black duct tape and a fast-food receipt from Feb. 25 in his girlfriend's car; and a shovel at his mother's home in San Diego.

Gardner, 31, pleaded guilty April 16 to raping and murdering King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who was abducted while walking to school in Escondido in February 2009. Prosecutors say he will now face life in prison for the crimes.

Gardner had served five years of a six-year prison sentence for molesting a 13-year-old San Diego neighbor in 2000.

Chelsea King's family attempted to keep many of the details in those court documents sealed because they have been too traumatized by her death. In the end, the judge only blacked out King's driver's license number and the last name of the 11-year-old girl.


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