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Investigators search area where skeletal remains of Amber Dubois were found

PALA - Investigators searched for crime-scene evidence today on a North County hillside where the skeletal remains of an Escondido teen were found over the weekend, 13 months after she went missing while walking to school.

The body of 14-year-old Amber Dubois was located early Saturday morning west of Pala Temecula Road, about three miles north of historic Pala Mission and roughly 25 miles from where the brown-haired, blue-eyed teen lived.

Extra counselors were on hand today at Escondido High School to help students cope with the news, administrators said. A candlelight vigil in the teen's memory was planned for this evening at the northern San Diego County secondary school, where Amber was a freshman at the time of her disappearance.

''Amber has been lost to us, but she'll be remembered in the memories of our staff and students,'' EHS Principal Rich Watkins told reporters this morning.

Authorities released few details about their investigation into the girl's death. During a news conference on Sunday afternoon, Escondido police Chief Jim Maher said only that detectives were ''following a lead'' when they located Amber's remains in a ''very rugged and remote'' locale near the Riverside County border.

''Positive identification was subsequently made by the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office late Saturday afternoon by way of a dental-records comparison,'' Maher said. ''Her parents were notified in person by Escondido

and sheriff's investigators Saturday night.''

Maher declined to take questions from reporters, citing concerns over the possibility of compromising the investigation by releasing too much information.

The case returned to widespread public attention last week following the arrest of a 30-year-old registered sex offender in connection with the disappearance and apparent slaying of 17-year-old Chelsea King of Poway, whose

body was found Tuesday in a shallow grave near Lake Hodges.

John Albert Gardner III -- who was ordered held without bail after pleading not guilty to raping and murdering Chelsea -- lived in Escondido when Amber disappeared.

Investigators were looking into any involvement the suspect might have had with Amber or the victims of other unsolved crimes.

''The Amber Dubois crime scene is still being processed and (Gardner) remains a focus of the investigation,'' Escondido police Lt. Craig Carter said this afternoon.

Overhead views of the area shot by television news helicopters at midday showed searchers combing through heavy brush on sloping terrain near several large canopies that had been erected a short distance from a dirt road.

Authorities had road access to the area fully blocked.

It was in the same general locale that the remains of 7-year-old Leticia Hernandez of Oceanside were found 15 months after she disappeared from her home in 1989.

Following Sunday's briefing, Amber's father, Maurice Dubois, took a moment to thank everyone who had helped search for his daughter, especially the hundreds of volunteers who donated their time and efforts weekend after weekend

for much of last year ''They were the most dedicated people you could ever imagine,'' he said. ''Without them, we couldn't have done anything.''

Skeletal remains found in Pala are those of Amber Dubois

ESCONDIDO - Skeletal remains found in Pala were those of missing Escondido teenager Amber Dubois, the Escondido Police Department announced today.

Escondido police Chief Jim Maher said, "I had certainly hoped the day would come after finding Amber’s body that it would be under different circumstances."

Amber was 14 when she went missing more than a year ago while walking to Escondido High School.

Despite a months-long search by law enforcement, family and volunteers, her body was not found until this weekend.

''The discovery was made in the early morning hours of Saturday, in a very rugged and remote section of Pala,'' said Chief Jim Maher at an afternoon news conference.

Pala is in northern San Diego County, about 25 miles from Escondido.

The chief said detectives were following a lead when her body was found.

''Positive identification was subsequently made by the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office late Saturday afternoon by way of a dental records comparison,'' Maher said. ''Her parents were notified in person by Escondido and sheriff's investigators Saturday night.

Maher did not take questions because of the ongoing investigation.

Amber returned to public attention since the arrest of John Albert Gardner III, 30, in connection with the disappearance and death of 17-year-old Chelsea King in nearby Rancho Bernardo.

Gardner is a registered sex offender who lived in Escondido when Amber disappeared. Investigators were looking into any involvement he might have had with the girl, or in other unsolved crimes.

Because Maher did not take questions, the source of the tip or any possible role played by Gardner was unknown.

Amber's father, Maurice Dubois, took a moment to thank everyone in the search for Amber, especially the hundreds of volunteers who looked for the girl every weekend for much of last year.

''They were the most dedicated people you could ever imagine,'' Maurice Dubois said. ''Without them, we couldn't have done anything.''

The announcement came a day after investigators searched for evidence in Amber's disappearance in a pond at Kit Carson Park in Escondido.

Police were tipped Thursday that last May, three girls found a black plastic bag and human hair at the edge of a pond, said Escondido police Lt. Craig Carter.

Detectives found a bag Thursday night, but it contained only mud and debris, Carter said. It was given to the FBI to analyze.

Amber DuBois's body not found in pond at Kit Carson Park

ESCONDIDO - A search of a nearly drained pond in a city park turned up no clues today in the disappearance of Amber Dubois, who was 14 when she disappeared a year ago while walking to Escondido High School.

Investigators got a tip Thursday that last May, three girls found a black plastic bag and human hair at the edge of a pond at Kit Carson Park, said Escondido police Lt. Craig Carter.

Detectives found a bag Thursday night, but it contained only mud and debris, Carter said. It was given to the FBI to analyze. ''Detectives have concluded that no evidence of hair was present in or around the recovered bag,'' Carter said. ''No other evidence was located as a result of the two-day search.''

City public works crews worked pumps overnight to drain the pond down to 3 or 4 feet of water and remove thick stands of reeds.

The children's parents called in the tip after seeing news accounts of Chelsea King, 17, of Poway, whose body was found in a shallow grave on the shore of Lake Hodges, about two miles from Kit Carson Park.

Registered sex offender John Albert Gardner III, 30, was arrested Sunday in connection with King's death, and is being looked at as a possible suspect in other crimes, including Amber's disappearance.

''Now we wait for the next lead to come in,'' Carter said. ''Nothing else came in this weekend. We have nothing new to pursue.''

About 30 to 40 law enforcement officers, including the sheriff's reserve dive team and search and rescue volunteers, Escondido police, the San Diego Mountain Rescue Team and the FBI evidence response team began today's search in

the murky water around 8 a.m. and called off the search about 2 p.m., Carter said.

To view John Gardner's arraignment, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDCz9qeVlMo

To see a San Diego 10 News piece including the vigil and reports after they found Chelsea's body http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4as8LuOx4k

Search for Amber DuBois's body leads law enforcement to drain pond in Kit Carson Park

ESCONDIDO - Law enforcement officers looking for a teenager missing for more than a year were draining a pond in Kit Carson Park today.

''They got tight lips on it,'' San Diego County sheriff's Lt. Sylvester Washington said early today. ''They told us nothing so far.''

Amber Dubois was 14 when she disappeared Feb. 13, 2009, while walking to Escondido High School.

With the Sunday arrest of registered sex offender John Albert Gardner III in the death of 17-year-old Chelsea King, who was found in a shallow grave along the south shore of Lake Hodges, law enforcement officers followed up on a tip in Amber's case.

Some children told their parents that in May they saw a black plastic bag, with what appeared to be human hair around it, in Kit Carson Park, which is about 2 miles from where Chelsea's body was found.

Law enforcement officers found the bag or a similar one Friday, but nothing but some mud was found inside, according to reports from the scene. Nonetheless, the bag was turned over to the FBI for analysis.

Gardner, who is suspected in a Dec. 27 attack on a woman in Rancho Bernardo Community Park, lived in Escondido at the time Amber disappeared.

Riverside County sheriff's deputies are also investigating him in connection with an attempted abduction in Lake Elsinore in October.

Gardner was living in Lake Elsinore when he was arrested, though his mother has a house in Rancho Bernardo. In 2000, he pleaded guilty to molesting a 13-year-old neighbor girl in Rancho Bernardo and was given a six-year sentence. He was paroled in September 2005, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

 

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