Arrest made in case of missing California girl

February 28, 2010 8:43:36 PM PST
A registered sex offender from Southern California was arrested Sunday in the disappearance of a suburban San Diego teenager missing for three days after going for a run in a park. The arrest came after some 1,400 volunteers scoured Rancho Bernardo Community Park for 17-year-old Chelsea King over the weekend, joining about 120 law enforcement personnel, said sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Caldwell.

Investigators searching the San Diego park found evidence that led to the arrest of 30-year-old John Albert Gardner of Riverside County, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore told the Associated Press in an interview.

Gore said investigators, who had spent the weekend searching the area around Lake Hodges in the park where King's car was found, discovered physical evidence linking Gardner to the case. Gore would not elaborate on the nature of the evidence. Gardner was under questioning Sunday night.

Investigators believe Gardner may also be tied to a Dec. 27 assault on a female jogger from Colorado Springs, Colo. in the park, a popular regional recreation area full of running trails, Gore said.

Gardner is from Lake Elsinore some 75 miles north of San Diego, according to the Megan's Law Web site. He had to register as a sex offender because of a conviction for lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14, the site said.

It was not immediately clear whether Gardner has hired an attorney.

The volunteers also handed out flyers during the weekend effort.

"It's a reflection of who she is and what kind of person she is," Chelsea's father, Brent Kelly, said of the numbers showing up to help. "She's that kind of kid that everybody loves, and it shows."

Chelsea King's BMW was found in the park after she failed to return to her home in suburban Poway, Calif. on Thursday, sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said.

Her parents pleaded for her return.

"Anybody out there if they know anything, please just help us bring her home," mother Kelly King said. "She's such a good girl. She needs to come home."

Investigators also looked for clues on the teen's cell phone, which was found in her car, and on her home computer.

The search for Chelsea King, a straight-A senior at Poway High School, also took to the Internet, where a Facebook page generated more than 24,000 fans. A Web site was created at findchelsea.com.


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