People in San Diego are understandably enraged and confused: a convicted sex offender (who, in the past, had beaten and raped young girls and got only five years in prison) was let out on parole...to rape and kill a young woman again.
This is a heartbreaking story and I, too am outraged and very scared for my child's safety.
Thousands Gather to Mourn Chelsea King
Outpouring of Grief Revitalizes Shaken Community at Teen's Memorial Service
By Lisa Fletcher
POWAY, Calif., March 13, 2010
More than 6,000 mourners held sunflowers tied with blue ribbons as they said goodbye to Chelsea King, the straight-A student and cross-country runner who was known for her kindness and compassion.
"She was a person who brought sunshine and light to school every day," said Dakota Douglas, Chelsea's friend and cross-country teammate. "She was an incredible person, was nice to everyone. I just can't believe that she's gone. School's not the same without her."
King, known for her gentle spirit, helped plan a prom for developmentally disabled kids, packed relief boxes for those in need in Africa and served as a peer counselor at her school.
During the memorial, a giant monitor over the high school football field reminisced of happier days -- Chelsea laughing with her friends, loving life. The school band filled the air with music; Chelsea had played the French horn in the band.
As everyone grieved, there was a message of hope. This strongly Christian community praying together that something good would ultimately come from something tragic, that laws would change, eyes would be opened and accountability would be had.
Chelsea went missing while running in a Rancho Bernardo park last month, just outside of San Diego. Thousands in this close-knit community turned out to search for her. Volunteers passed out flyers by the thousands and tied blue ribbons on trees across the city to remind people she was missing.
This community is now turning that same energy into demands for change -- outraged that a paroled sex offender may have slipped through bureaucratic cracks.
"This is just an assault to everybody's child," said Christy Georgedes, as she choked back tears. "I've got three daughters and she's my fourth daughter, and this is going to stop! So we're going to show our love today but after that, beware. You just watch how powerful things are going to get."
Parents we spoke with say they will do anything within their power to change the laws if necessary, but most of all they will demand accountability from those whose job it is to track the whereabouts of convicted predators.
Police arrested convicted sex offender John Gardner three days after Chelsea's disappearance. Two days later, her body was discovered in a shallow grave.
Terri Francy, who has kids at Poway High School, told us this community won't stop until families have the protection they deserve.
"Seven times that he [Gardner] violated parole and had they got him, had they put him behind bars where he should have been, then he wouldn't have been out there to commit this crime," Francy said. "I hate to live in the 'what ifs' and 'it shouldn't have happened,' but it's true. It shouldn't have happened. We want to stop it now."
It is unclear whether Gardner violated his parole or whether the state didn't properly track him. But enough questions have been raised that on Friday, Gov. Schwarzenegger ordered a probe into the way the state handled Gardner's case.
Officials say that Gardner, who's now charged in Chelsea's death, is also the focus in the murder investigation of 14-year-old Amber DuBois, whose body was found in a neighboring community last Saturday.
Gardner was released early from prison in 2005, after molesting a 13-year-old girl.
My friend Wendi sent me a link to the Web site Family Watchdog and I was shocked to find that there are 15 (!!) registered sex offenders within a five mile radius of my house!
As a parent, it is our job to keep our children safe. We have to do our best to prepare them in case they are ever in danger or threatened in any way. I have a nine month old and I'm already thinking about this stuff!
I'm afraid these days, it goes a lot further than "Don't talk to strangers" and “Look both ways before crossing the street”. There's Internet stalking, identity theft, bullying, child predators in our parks and playgrounds, child abductors, substance abuse, etc., etc., etc. How do I teach my son to be safe without frightening him? It's enough to make you want to put a GPS tracking device in your child!
A parent should never ever ever have to bury a child. My heart goes out to the parents of Chelsea King. May they find peace.
The best is yet to be.