He was in court for just minutes, but the mere sight of the convicted sex offender charged with raping and murdering 17-year-old Chelsea King set off a fresh round of outrage that reached as far as the White House.
In the hours before his court appearance in San Diego Wednesday, someone spray painted his mother's garage with the words, "Chelsea's blood is on you -- move out." And neighbors screamed at two men who tried to paint over it.
"You're protecting somebody who has killed an innocent girl," one yelled. "Get out of here."
John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted," said he met with President Obama Wednesday to discuss child protection laws and funding for the Adam Walsh Act, signed three years ago by President Bush.
The law promised to create a national registry of sex offenders and keep closer track of the most violent of them, but it did not come with the funds needed to carry it out.
"President Obama said yesterday, 'As the father of two girls, John, I will get the Adam Walsh law funded,'" Walsh told "Good Morning America" today.
Walsh, whose 6-year-old son for whom the law is named and who was kidnapped and murdered in 1981, knows firsthand the grief King's parents are experiencing.
"They're in the worst place a parent could be," he said. "They look in that courtroom and see a guy who should have never been out on the streets."
King, a well-liked honors student, vanished after heading out for a jog in a semi-rural San Diego County park. Her body was found less than a week later, buried in a shallow grave near the shore of Lake Hodges, about a half-mile from her car.
But the outrage grew with the arrest of Gardner, a known violent sex offender who has since been charged with the December assault and attempted rape of 22-year-old Candice Moncayo in the same park where King's body was found.
"I think everyone asks the same question," Walsh said. "Why was this animal out on the streets?"
Residents Angry John Albert Gardner Was Allowed Out
"The law should be once you offend, you're done, you're toast, you're in the slammer or you are executed," one angry woman said as she stood among protestors outside the courthouse.
Former San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst was slightly more objective.
"I am of the view that people who do harm to teenage girls should go to Gitmo and stay there for the rest of their lives and be waterboarded," he said.
Authorities said Gardner may also be linked to the February 2009 disappearance of 14-year-old Amber DuBois, who vanished on her way to school, not far from where Gardner was living at the time.
"The girls are the exact similar build," Maurice DuBois said of his daughter and King. "Both white girls, both five-five, both 130 pounds."
Detectives across California are now looking into other unsolved cases involving young girls and considering whether there are any more possible links to Gardner.
Gardner pleaded guilty in 2000 to charges of committing lewd and lascivious acts on 13-year-old girl in his parents' home. He served five years of a six-year sentence and was on parole until 2008.
In court Wednesday, Gardner was flanked by two court officers. His head was shaved and his hands were manacled around the waist of his blue prison jumpsuit.
Keeping his eyes down, Gardner, 30, only answered "yes" to the judge's question about whether he understood the charges.
No bail was set, and the prosecutor did not mention any of the details of the alleged crime. Gardner was assigned a public defender for the arraignment, but that lawyer may not represent him at trial.
Prosecutors said the severity of the accusations, including a "special allegation" that a murder was committed during a rape, could carry the death penalty. The decision to seek capital punishment, however, is weeks away.
"The special allegation does make the defendant eligible for the death penalty," Deputy District Attorney Kristen Spieler said at a press conference following the arraignment. "That decision is made by the DA, typically after the preliminary hearing and before a trial."
If the district attorney does not seek the death penalty, the charges carry a penalty of 25 years to life.
Psychiatrist Said Gardner Posed 'Continued Danger to Underage Girls'
Gardner's previous record as a convicted sex offender, prosecutors said, would be presented at trial.
Dr. Matthew Carroll, a court psychiatrist, who evaluated Gardner before his release from prison on the 2000 conviction, had pushed for the maximum sentence, as many as 30 years, and said Gardner "would be a continued danger to underage girls in the community."
Dr. Alex Kalish, a colleague, said Carroll was angry that his recommendations were ignored a decade ago.
"Dr. Carroll told the court that [Gardner] showed no insight and expressed no responsibility and that he is a danger. You can't make a stronger statement than that," said Kalish. "The guy is violent and a predator who shows no remorse.
"There was no effort to consider his report. Apparently the DA did what was expedient to get a conviction. It is frustrating that no one considered the psychiatric input. Why ask for it, if you don't consider it," Kalish said.