“Lost Girls, by veteran journalist and true-crime writer
Caitlin Rother, is a deeply reported, dispassionately written attempt to determine what created that monster and predator. It is a cautionary tale and a horror story, done superbly by a writer who knows how to burrow into a complex case without becoming captive to her sources.”
-- Los Angeles Times
“Tightly written, meticulously researched.”
-- Steve Jackson, NY Times bestselling author
The desperate search for two lost innocents, Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, led authorities to a brutal predator hiding in plain sight: John Albert Gardner, a convicted sex offender who could have been returned to prison several times over. This heartbreaking true-life thriller describes a case that galvanized the Greater San Diego community, first by grief and goodwill, then by anger and injustice, as it came to grips with a flawed system that failed ... and adopted a law that will forever change how we keep our children safe. (Kensington/Pinnacle, 2012).
“I was out of control ... I was aware of what I was doing and I could not stop myself. I was in a major rage ... at my whole life and everyone who's hurt me and I hurt the wrong people. ”
-- John Gardner
John Albert Gardner was born into a troubled, dysfunctional family with a history of mental illness, incest and molestation. Gardner, who has bipolar disorder, tried to commit suicide several times both as a boy and as an adult, and self-medicated with alcohol and meth. His family saw him as a sweet nurturing young man, who wasn't capable of harming anyone, including the 13-year-old neighbor he was convicted of assaulting.
After he was released from prison, he trapped, raped and killed 14-year-old Amber Dubois, then a year later, did the same to 16-year-old Chelsea King. The community of San Diego County galvanized in its hopeful search for both missing girls.
But soon, emotions turned to anger and hatred for Gardner after he was captured and arrested at Hernandez Hideaway in Escondido. Chelsea's family and friends held a candlelight vigil after her body was found two days later, on the shores of Lake Hodges, where she had gone jogging.
By forging an agreement to have Gardner lead authorities to Amber's body in a remote area near Pala, his attorneys were able to get him a plea deal, to which both victims' families agreed, because authorities found no other evidence connecting Gardner to Amber's death.
Shrines were set up near both sites where the girls were killed.
Gardner pleaded guilty to murdering both girls and will spend the rest of his life in prison, where he knows he belongs.