Suspect Arrested in Case of Missing Teen Chelsea King Source: Suspect Arrested in Case of Missing Teen Chelsea King

A registered sex offender has been arrested in the case of missing teen Chelsea King, but the search for the Poway High School student is not over, according to investigators.

John Albert Gardner, 30, from Lake Elsinore was arrested outside a restaurant in Escondido around 4.30 p.m., Sheriff Bill Gore said at a 7 p.m. news conference Sunday at Rancho Bernardo Community Park.

“There are several searches going on around the county,” Gore said. “We are going to refocus some of our search efforts.”

Gardner is a registered sex offender on the Megan’s law website.

“During the course of this extensive investigation evidence was discovered that linked Gardner to Ms. King in such a manner as to warrant his arrest,” Gore said. “At this time it would be in the best interest for the successful prosecution of Gardner that the evidence not be revealed in a public forum.”

Gardner was taken into custody outside of Hernandez’ Hideaway Restaurant on Lake Drive in Escondido, officials said.

There’s a strong possibility that the suspect is connected to a separate attack December 27 in the same area, Gore said. When a reporter asked him if he thought the suspect was connected to the disappearance of Amber Dubois, Gore replied, “We’re looking into that.”

“I think there is a good possibility that Gardner may be linked to Amber’s disappearance,” Amber’s mother Carrie McGonigle said Sunday night. “I pray that he isn’t because it would be the worst case scenario for my daughter. I am praying for Chelsea’s’ family.”

Gardner was taken to the Sheriff’s Administrative Center in San Diego, where he was being questioned by Homicide investigators.

“This investigation is ongoing, specific criminal charges against Gardner are still being determined,” Gore said

The manager of Hernandez’ Hideaway, who only wanted to be named as Jeanette, waited on the suspect just before he was arrested.

“He just had a meal and left, there was nothing out of the ordinary,” she said.

The manager had never seen the suspect in the restaurant before.

Chelsea’s parents released this statement Sunday night on their official Facebook page:

“Nothing will change for us until our beautiful daughter, Chelsea King, comes home. We will continue searching for her, and we ask that all of you do the same until she’s back with us. She is an extraordinary daughter and also someone who is committed to her community. She has huge dreams and wants to change the world. Hundreds of people are working alongside us to make sure she has that chance, and we are deeply grateful. She and our entire family need your help now for Chelsea’s safe return. We thank law enforcement for pursuing all avenues to bring this situation to an expedient, positive outcome. We will be posting regular updates from our family on Facebook page: Chelsea King Search Center.” Kelly & Brent King, and family.

Earlier, on Sunday afternoon, Chelsea’s parents sat down for a one-on-one interview with NBC San Diego. There was no hiding the despair and pain of living without their missing daughter.

“I can’t begin to describe the depth of sorrow. It’s been a nightmare,” said Kelly King. “There’s no other way to put it. It’s your worst nightmare.”

“My body hasn’t stopped shaking since I came to the realization of what was occurring,” said Brent King. “You just feel a complete amount of emptiness and helplessness.

The King’s last saw their daughter Wednesday. They say she performed in a school concert that night, and then woke up early Thursday morning to attend a peer counseling meeting at Poway High School at 6:15 a.m.

Chelsea King, 17, apparently went for a run immediately after school on Thursday. She never returned home. Her car was found at the Rancho Bernardo Glassman Community Park. Her cell phone, Ipod, and school clothes were found inside the car.

Her parents say she was not a risk taker and would not wander from the trails. They say she preferred to run alone, which they frowned upon.

“We would never allow her to run by herself. But she’s a 17-year old girl,” said Brent King. “If she chose to run by herself on that day, she didn’t do it because her parents said go ahead and run by yourself.”

“When you’re that age, you feel invincible,” said Kelly King. “Bad things aren’t going to happen to you.”

The Kings thanked the community for their outpouring of support.

“”I would have never thought this was possible in terms and love and support and the dedication and the commitment from this community,” said Kelly King. She now wears a pair of earrings that say ‘Hope’, given to her by a stranger.

The Kings call their daughter their shining light. Brent King recalled a text message he recently sent his daughter.

“I texted her and said ‘I am just so proud of you, for the kind of person you are.’  She’s what every parent wants. She’s that kid. You don’t worry about her grades, we worried that she studied too much. ‘Please, just relax, go have some fun.’ She didn’t want to do that because she has goals. She has dreams. She wants to change the world. That’s who she is,” said Brent King.

Kelly King talked about the special mother daughter bond she shares with Chelsea.

“We got to the point when she got a little bit older, we could wear the same clothes. It became a source of contention for me,” said Kelly King with a laugh. “Part of me thought, ‘oh goodness, you’ve got my clothes on.’ The other part of me thought, ‘that’s pretty cool, I can fit into your clothes.'”

Holding out hope Chelsea King could some how hear them, the Kings sent out a heartfelt message to their daughter.

“Baby girl, we love you. You’re coming home. Be strong, be as strong as I know you are,” said Kelly King. “Sweetie, we love you. We love you with all of our heart and we’re waiting. We’re here honey. We’re gonna find you.”

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