My heart goes out to Chelsea King's and Amber Dubois' family for the devastating loss of their beautiful daughters whose lives were snuffed out much too soon. Chelsea was an honor student at Poway High and a member of the San Diego Youth Symphony. She was a cross country runner, a talented musician and well liked among her peers. Chelsea was in the midst of choosing a college after her graduation in May of this year but suddenly, she was gone. One day after school Chelsea decided to take a run alone on the trails of Rancho Bernardo Community Park near Lake Hodge. A few days ago, the search ended tragically when Chelsea's body was found in a shallow grave by Lake Hodges.
On February 13, 2009 Fourteen year old Amber Dubois was on her way to school to exchange Valentine Day gifts with her friends. Amber was also excited to pay for a baby lamb through her school's Future Farmers of America program. She was last seen at around 7:00am only a block from Escondido High School. A little over a year later just days after finding Chelsea King's body, remains of Amber's body were identified in an isolated area of Pala. Her grieving parents suffered a year of not knowing whether their precious child would come home dead or alive. Today, Amber can finally be put to rest, and her parents can finally have closure.
Registered sex offender John Gardner has been officially charged with Chelsea's murder, and he is also possibly being linked to Amber's case. Gardner pleaded guilty for child molestation in 2000 and received a maximum of 11 years. He only received 6, even though court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Matthew Cowell who interviewed Gardner, urged that the sex offender receive the maximum sentence allowed by law. Court documents reveal that Dr. Cowell reported Gardner was a "continued danger to underage girls in the community" and an "extremely poor candidate" for treatment. It is shocking that the Judge shortened this monster's sentence despite the foreboding warning that he will commit more crimes against girls.
What is wrong with our justice system today where we let known sex offenders back on the streets to abduct, rape or murder another child? Does anyone in the District Attorney's office have daughters of their own? How would they feel if they had to experience the horrific pain and devastation of losing a child to a sexual predator who was let back out on the streets due to parole? What would they do if their daughter went missing and had to spend agonizing and gut-wrenching days waiting to hear if their little girl was found alive or dead?
The laws for convicted sex offenders must change. First time sex offenders should NEVER be released from prison but should be given the death penalty if proven guilty. It is a known fact that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated, and they are a threat to society no matter how much therapy they receive. To allow these vicious animals back into society so that they can prey on another innocent child is the same as giving permission for the criminal to do so. Forcing sex offenders to register their address and information apparently doesn't do any good. Neighbors of Gardner's parents had no idea that a child molester was living right next door to them, because many times, the information on these sex offenders are often not available or inaccurate.
In light of the tragic loss of Chelsea and Amber, I hope deaths are not in vain and that their murders will invoke changes in the law on the sentencing of sex offenders. It's a terrible shame that we had to lose two beautiful children to serve as a wake up call that just because a sex offender is "registered," it does not make us any more safe from the predator's sick and twisted thoughts and actions. There is no cure that will take away a sex offender's urge to perform unspeakable acts against humanity. Why in God's name do we give these deranged fiends any rights at all to live among society and give them another opportunity to brutally hurt and possibly kill another human being?
It is also grossly unfair for the justice system to allow such scum to walk our streets to yet again to act out their evil and twisted behavior on our children. If the law doesn't change to reflect the horrendous aspects of child molestation, rape and murder, then we as citizens of the United States should have our constitutional right to bear arms to protect ourselves and our family from these predators.
My final thought on the shocking deaths of these two girls is that as parents, we need to do a better job in protecting our children against violent crimes. We can no longer stick our heads in the sand and believe that this could never happen to my daughter. But it did -- twice that we know of and who knows the countless other missing girls we still haven't found with their parents holding on to a glimmer of hope that their chld will come home alive. We need to educate our children of the dangers of walking alone and the risks of talking to strangers. Our children need to be taught effective self defense techniques so they have a fighting chance to get away. Children love to scream while playing, and they need to know to use their vocal cords the same way in times of danger. Our children need to be armed with a personal alarm that they can set off if a predator tries to abduct them. Rapists do not like attention drawn to them, and the loud shrill of an alarm or whistle may scare them off before any harm is done. Teenagers are responsible enough to carry a personal protection device such as a pepper spray or Mace as another tool to fight back if faced with a dangerous situation. Lastly, children must be taught to always be aware of their surroundings and to avoid listening to their music devices, texting or talking on a cell phone while they are out and about. Distractions are their worst enemy and sex offenders seek out potential victims who are not paying attention.
I wish you and yours a very safe 2010 and that you never have to experience the heartbreaking loss in which Chelsea's and Amber's parents are going through right now. I will not suggest that I have any idea of how the King and Dubois family are coping with their unimaginable situation, but we pray that they will somehow find the strength to carry on through their daughters' spirits and the memory of how their lives touched so many people.