One year anniversary of Chelsea King’s disappearance

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – It was one year ago Friday that 17-year-old Chelsea King disappeared while jogging on the trails above Rancho Bernardo Community Park, touching off a frantic search by hundreds of volunteers that ended with the discovery of her body on the shore of Lake Hodges.

Her parents, Brent and Kelly King, marked the anniversary quietly with only a statement revealing their love and admiration for the bright-eyed teen, who was a senior at Poway High.

The statement read, “Today, just as we have tried this entire year and will continue to over the course of our lives, we focus on how our joy filled daughter chose to live her life — with a zest and passion and willingness to make others smile, and a desire to change the world. Our Angel Forever. We love you Chelsea!”

Registered sex offender John Albert Gardner III later pleaded guilty to murdering Chelsea and Amber DuBois, a 14-year-old freshman at Escondido High School, in 2009. He is imprisoned for life.

Chelsea was an avid long-distance runner, a straight-A student with a quirky sense of humor and member of the San Diego Youth Symphony.

Her death, and that of Amber, sparked fury over perceived lax supervision by state officials of the 31-year-old Gardner, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenager in Rancho Bernardo in 2000 and spent six years in prison. He had a number of contacts with law enforcement officers following his release, but was never returned to custody.

Last September, Chelsea's Law was enacted to require sentences of life without parole for forcible sexual assaults against minors, and calls for lifetime tracking of certain sex offenders and tightens sex offense parole guidelines.

“Californians rose to the occasion and banded together in unprecedented numbers to pass Chelsea's Law,” Chelsea's father, Brent King, wrote in an opinion article in The San Diego Union-Tribune earlier this week. “One person at a time collectively made thousands of phone calls and mailed thousands of blue ribbons to state legislators to get their attention in a dignified manner. One person at a time collectively amassed 36,631 signatures on support petitions with not one paid signature gatherer.”

Brent, his wife Kelly, and their son now live near Chicago. In the article, he expressed his commitment to passing versions of Chelsea's Law in the 49 other states.

While announcing in January that he would not sue the state of California, he said it would be better to change the system that allowed Gardner to be free.

A spokeswoman for the family said the family plans to travel to San Diego next week for the “Finish Chelsea's Run” on March 5 at Balboa Park.

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