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Gardner transferred; investigation continues on other cases, charges recommended for Lake Elsinore attempted kidnapping

UPDATE

Riverside – The Riverside County Sheriff's Department recommended today that charges be filed against the admitted killer of two San Diego County teenagers for allegedly trying to abduct a Lake Elsinore girl last year.

Sheriff’s officials allege that John Albert Gardner III is responsible for an Oct. 29 kidnapping attempt in the El Cariso area, on the southwest end of Lake Elsinore, a couple of miles from the Orange County line.

Investigators are recommending that the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office file attempted kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon charges against Gardner.

The 31-year-old former Lake Elsinore resident pleaded guilty last month in San Diego to the sex-assault slayings of 14-year-old Amber Dubois on Feb. 13, 2009, and 17-year-old Chelsea King on Feb. 25 of this year.

He was sentenced Friday to consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole, plus 49 years.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Deputy Melissa Nieburger said investigators identified Gardner as the prime suspect in the Lake Elsinore case in early

March, but at the request of the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, the investigation was kept under wraps.

“It was requested that we not release the information,” Nieburger said, attributing the action to a gag order put in place by a judge.

She said the sheriff’s department suspended action in the case until after Gardner’s sentencing for the murders of the San Diego area teens.

According to sheriff’s investigators, the Lake Elsinore victim was walking to a friend’s house in the 32900 block of Machado Street when a man accosted her, flashed a handgun and ordered her to get into his vehicle.

The girl was able to get away and call authorities.

She described her attacker as 30 to 35 years old, with a fair complexion, blonde crew cut and brown eyes. He was driving a gold, four-door sedan, she said.

According to the deputy, the case went cold until late February, when she saw news broadcasts of Gardner and called sheriff's investigators.

“They brought her down to the station, and she picked Gardner out of a photo line-up,” Nieburger said.

She said investigators asked last week to speak with Gardner about the attempted abduction, and his attorneys “declined on behalf of their client.”

A 30-member investigative team comprised of personnel from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Escondido Police Department, FBI and other agencies are looking at whether Gardner can be tied to any unsolved crimes in Southern California.

Gardner was on the Riverside County Sheriff's Department’s list of registered sex offenders. In March, sheriff's officials said he had been “in compliance of all obligations of his registration” while living in Lake Elsinore.

He was convicted of molesting and beating a child in 2000 and moved to the Inland Empire following his release from prison.

SAN DIEGO - The man who admitted raping and murdering North County teenagers Amber Dubois and Chelsea King began serving his lifelong prison term today.

John Albert Gardner III, 31, was transferred this morning from county jail in San Diego to North Kern State Prison in Delano, leaving about 2 a.m. and arriving shortly before 6 a.m., said Terry Thornton of the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

At the penitentiary about 180 miles north of Los Angeles, he will undergo a 45-day "reception center" evaluation to determine which of the state's 33 prisons is best suited to permanently house him, according to Thornton. Among other factors, the review will take into account Gardner's psychological makeup, physical health and education status.

During the process, Gardner will be confined in a maximum-security cell by himself. The former Lake Elsinore resident pleaded guilty last month to the sex-assault slayings of 14-year-old Amber on Feb. 13, 2009, and 17-year-old Chelsea on Feb. 25 of this year.

He was sentenced Friday to consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole, plus 49 years.

A special task force is charged with determining whether Gardner -- who was sent to prison in 2000 and served about six years for sexually assaulting a neighbor girl -- is responsible for any other unsolved kidnappings, rapes or homicides.

Riverside County authorities are investigating him in connection with the attempted abduction of a girl in Lake Elsinore last October.

 

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