When John Albert Gardner III was arrested on March 1, 2010, for the rape and murder of Chelsea King, a southern California high school student who had gone for a run on February 25 and never returned home, the case of Amber Dubois was already being mentioned in connection to her death. The family of Amber Dubois, a 13-year-old Escondido girl that had went missing a year before Chelsea King vanished, was there to lend support and help in the search while the Kings looked for their daughter. Some went as far as to speculate that Gardner might have also had something to do with Amber Dubois’ disappearance. As CBS’ 48 Hours revealed in “Taken: The Amber Dubois Story,” the Dubois family would soon discover a connection that would bind the two families together forever. Unfortunately, that connection would be John Albert Gardner III.
It didn’t take long for the attorneys of John Albert Gardner III, a 30-year-old man who had served five years in prison for the lewd acts and the molestation of a 13-year-old girl beginning in 2000, to reach out to San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to make a deal. To keep himself off of death row for the rape and murder of Chelsea King, Gardner was willing to confess to the murder of another teenager, Amber Dubois, and help authorities recover the body.
Dumanis secured the blessing of Chelsea King’s family before the state made the deal. “It was a serious and heavy agreement,” Dumanis told 48 Hours. “And we made that decision and kept it very secret. …You don’t know whether or not he’s telling the truth. You don’t know whether you’re really gonna find Amber. And you don’t want to raise the hopes or the fears of the family before you know.”
With a restrained John Gardner showing the way, investigators were led to Dubois’ remains in rural Pala, California.
A month later, on April 16, 2010, John Albert Gardner III pleaded guilty to killing Amber Dubois and Chelsea King. He also pleaded guilty to an additional attempted sexual assault charge brought against him by jogger Candice Moncayo, who had escaped an attack in December 2009.
Dubois had disappeared on February 13, 2009. She was on her way to school, excited about a class project she’d been looking forward to for months. Two people would later say they saw her a few blocks from her school. The first saw her walking alone. The second saw her talking to a man or child.
And then nothing. Until March 2010.
In their exclusive interviews with John Gardner, the convicted murderer said that he would kill again if freed. “I am the most dangerous type of a sexual predator,” he told 48 Hours’ Troy Roberts. “I will kill. I know I will… I am the type that needs to be locked up. Forever.”
But Gardner had difficulty talking about remorse. “Honestly,” he said, “I do have remorse – the word remorse. I regret it completely. I don’t even know the meaning of that word “remorse.” I say “regret.” I regret everything that I’ve done.”
But regret would not stop him from killing again. Nor, apparently, will medication. Gardner told 48 Hours he was currently on medication and had been since he was a teen. Nothing had ever worked. And he still got angry and spiraled into uncontrolled rages.
Gardner said he doesn’t expect to live long in prison. He expects that someday someone will “come and get [him].” He continued, “That will be a release for me. I’m going to torture myself more with the memories that I have and how much I beat myself up about it than death itself. And I’ll probably – it’s either going to be that or I end up killing myself, one of the two. I can’t stand to be confined. I’m like an animal. Just like they said. I’m an animal.”
D. A. Bonnie Dumanis uses another word to describe John Albert Gardner III: sociopath. She noted that the true John Gardner flared for the briefest on instants during testimony when Candice Moncayo asked, “How’s your nose?” She was referring to a blow she claimed to have delivered in her struggle that enabled her to escape the same horrible fate as Chelsea King and Amber Dubois. Gardner had turned to his lawyer, clearly angered, and mouthed, “She didn’t hit me!”
“And just like that,” Dumanis said. “The rage in his eyes. That’s the real Gardner.”
Some wonder at the fairness of a justice system that allows murderers to live in exchange for information about other criminal acts. But without that kind of information, cases like Amber Dubois’ might never be solved and a family might never find peace from their worries and fears. But Amber’s mother, Carrie McGonigle, after gaining access to Gardner for an interview to ask about her daughter’s last moments alive (a horrific story repeated by Gardner in a separate 48 Hours interview), has found the inner resources to forgive the killer. She said it was Amber prompting her and she had to forgive in order to get on with her life.
“I could sit here and be angry at the world,” she noted, “but what is that going to get me? How is that going to benefit my 7-year-old daughter that I have to raise still?”
“Taken: The Amber Dubois Story,” CBSNews.com