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Gardner may be tied to several unsolved assaults

RIVERSIDE - A man who admitted killing two San Diego County teens possibly implicated himself in several unsolved assaults, including at least one case in Riverside County, but confessed to no other slayings, officials said today.

John Albert Gardner III's statements to sheriff's detectives during a post-sentencing interrogation -- after he was ordered to spend the rest of his life behind bars -- suggested the confessed killer ''may have been involved in other criminal activity'' in San Diego, Riverside and possibly San Bernardino counties, San Diego County sheriff's Lt. Dennis Brugos said.

''He didn't shed a lot of light,'' Brugos told reporters today during a panel discussion headed by many of San Diego County's top law enforcement officials, including Sheriff Bill Gore and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

During the unusual multi-agency news conference at sheriff's headquarters, official provided in-depth time lines of investigations into the rape-murders of Amber Dubois, a 14-year-old Escondido High School freshman who disappeared while walking to school on Feb. 13, 2009, and Chelsea King, 17, who went missing during a jog in Rancho Bernardo on Feb. 25 of this year.

They also disclosed the existence of a special task force charged with determining whether Gardner, who was sent to prison in 2000 for sexually assaulting a neighbor girl, is responsible for any other unsolved kidnappings, rapes or homicides.

Brugos said there are currently no open murder cases in San Diego County similar to those of Amber or Chelsea.

The investigative team, which consists of 30 personnel from nine area agencies, will continue its work for an indefinite period, authorities said.

Friday's questioning of Gardner took place immediately after his sentencing hearing, and included investigators from the Sheriff's Department, Escondido Police Department, FBI and the state Department of Justice, Brugos said.

''He was pretty vague,'' Brugos said. ''He didn't say anything that would lead to bodies, which was our big concern.''

Gardner's comments regarding the strangulation murder of Chelsea, a Poway High School senior, were ''what we theorized happened and what the evidence supported,'' Brugos said.

Officials with the Escondido Police Department would not disclose what Gardner said about Amber, who was stabbed to death.

Connie Milton, the supervising criminalist in the San Diego County sheriff's crime laboratory, said trace evidence has been processed from cars to which Gardner had access, but there were no matches to other cases.

Gardner was sentenced Friday to a pair of consecutive life prison terms, plus 49 years.

 

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