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Gardner says during interview that teen murders were "crimes of opportunity"

SAN DIEGO - The confessed killer of North County teens Amber Dubois and Chelsea King said in an interview televised today that the slayings were crimes of opportunity, not the carefully plotted acts of a stalker intent on murder.

''I actually didn't go out and look for (the victims),'' John Albert Gardner III told KFMB-TV by telephone from inside San Diego Central Jail. ''I did not sit and wait for them.''

During the exclusive interview, the 31-year-old former Lake Elsinore resident openly acknowledged the heinousness of his crimes.

''What I did was horrible,'' he conceded.

When asked, however, if there were ''other victims,'' Gardner chuckled. He replied, ''Good try,'' then laughed some more, sounding genuinely amused.

In exchange for pleading guilty to raping and murdering Amber, 14, and Chelsea, 17, Gardner will be sentenced next month to a pair of consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 33 years to life for assaulting a woman late last year.

Chelsea, an avid runner and straight-A senior at Poway High School, disappeared on the afternoon of Feb. 25 after going for a run at Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Her body was discovered five days later in a shallow grave near a tributary of Lake Hodges. She had been strangled.

Amber was a freshman at Escondido High School when she vanished while walking to school in February 2009. Her skeletal remains were found last month in Pala. An autopsy determined that she had been stabbed to death.

Early last month, three days after Gardner was arraigned on charges of murdering Chelsea, he led authorities to Amber's body. In return, prosecutors agreed not to use his knowledge of the whereabouts of her remains against him in court, according to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

Gardner pleaded guilty to both murders April 16.

In denying that he had specifically targeted the victims, Gardner told the station ''it wasn't about their age'' and said he was on seemingly routine outings prior to the abductions.

''To calm myself, I'll go for a walk, or I'll go for a drive, just to calm down,'' Gardner said.

Gardner described the impulse to attack the girls as sudden and overwhelming.

''I mean, I was aware of what I was doing, and I could not stop myself,'' Gardner said. ''I was -- had a major rage, and (was) pissed off, and pissed off at my whole life and everybody that's hurt me. And (I) blew up, and I hurt the wrong people.''

Gardner spoke remorsefully of his crimes several times during the interview.

''I hate myself,'' Gardner said. ''I really do. There is no -- there is no taking back what I did. And if I could, yes I would. Are you kidding me? But I was out of control. If I was able to stop myself in the middle of it, I would've. And I could not. I was out of control.''

In one odd statement, the admitted child killer criticized school budget shortfalls, as if they had played a role in the first murder.

''If there was a bus schedule still, would ... Amber still be here ... ? Yeah, she would have, if there was a bus,'' Gardner said. ''So why don't they put ... money toward the schools?''

Despite his talkativeness during the interview, Gardner refused to go into detail about the murders.

''I'm only answering questions to the families in regards to that stuff, anything involving those two (attacks) and how things happened and whatever,'' Gardner said. ''I will not comment on any of that. I will answer questions to them and them

Gardner claimed that he had never intended to keep the locations of the victims' bodies secret.

''I was gonna tell them where Chelsea was, and I was gonna tell them where Amber was,'' Gardner said.

Gardner, in fact, denied that it was an offer to take capital punishment off the table that prompted him to confess to the crimes and claimed he was willing to admit to what he'd done and direct authorities to the victims' bodies as early as the day after his arrest.

''I told them, 'I don't give a (expletive),''' Gardner said. ''I told them with no promise of a deal ... . I had no promises, and I showed them where Amber was, because I felt bad.''

About the possibility of receiving the death penalty, Gardner said: ''I didn't care. I still don't.''

At his arraignment on March 3 -- the day after Chelsea's body was found - - Gardner wanted to plead guilty but was talked out of it by the public defenders representing him, he told News 8.

''And I (wanted) to tell everybody how bad that I felt,'' Gardner said.

Gardner asserted during the 2 1/2-hour interview that authorities delayed telling the victims' families about his admissions, prompting him to angrily call the state Attorney General's Office to protest.

''I had some issues with what was going on in my case,'' Gardner said.

Gardner, whose crimes have spurred activists, led by Chelsea's parents, to lobby for tighter restraints on sex offenders, said his fate will be to die in prison long before he reaches old age.

''I'm gonna be dead within the next five years,'' he said.

When asked what he meant, Gardner replied, ''You don't know how prison works, do you?''


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