A woman who fought off an attacker on a San Diego jogging trail has identified her assailant as the same man who is being held on suspicion of raping and killing teenager Chelsea King on the same jogging path, her sister told ABCNews.com today.
Candice Moncayo, 23, a graduate student in Colorado Springs, was shown a mug shot of John Gardner III, a convicted sex offender arrested in connection with the disappearance of King, and confirmed it was the same man who attacked her in February.
"Candice was reached by police to see if the man matched up with the man who attacked Chelsea King," Moncayo's sister Kayla Moncayo told ABC News today. "She looked at the pictures and told police, 'he's the same guy.'"
Gardner, 30, was arrested on Sunday, four days after King disappeared during a jog on the afternoon of Feb. 25. Police said they found Gardner's DNA on clothing belonging to King.
Police believe Gardner may also be connected to an attack on another missing San Diego teen, 14-year-old Amber DuBois who disappeared in February 2009.
Moncayo's sister said she hoped the information police learned could help them convict Gardner, who was arrested on suspicion of rape and first degree murder and will be arraigned in court Wednesday.
"When we heard about Chelsea King, immediately my family was concerned that it was the same man," said Kayla Moncayo. "We pray that Candice can provide helpful information and Chelsea will be found."
Kayla Moncayo, the opinion editor for the Silver Spur, the Rancho Bernardo High School newspaper, wrote about her sister's attack shortly after it took place. The story ran last Friday, one day after King disappeared.
Candice Moncayo was running on the trail when she "was tackled and thrown to the side of the running trail, caught off guard and without warning," her sister wrote.
"I thought he was going to rape me," Moncayo said of the overweight man who tackled her. "So I told him he would have to kill me first."
"He picked her up by the shoulders and began shaking her relentlessly," she wrote.
Moncayo fought her attacker, elbowing hard him in the nose. The shot made her assailant pause, allowing her to get out of his grasp and run away.
"All that was left of the ... attacker were the bruises he left on her and the DNA the police were able to swab from her elbow," according to the article.
"She is shaken up, but she's a strong girl," Kayla told ABC News today. "She has the joy of the lord on her."
The Search for Chelsea King
The search for King has focused the search on 14 miles of shoreline as police continue to probe the area with a high-tech drone aircraft and helicopters with infrared equipment.
But it's a search, some say, that never should have had reason to exist. Gardner was one of 83,000 registered sex offenders living in California, a state that is overburdened with staffing shortages and budget crises.
"The law is good, but it's got to be implemented," Ernie Allen, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told "Good Morning America." The reality is the most dangerous offenders seek situations where they can be anonymous, where no one knows they're there. Where they have easy access to children."
Allen said that changes are both needed and possible, but lawmakers can't use budget constraints as an excuse.
"There is no higher priority than protecting the children and maintaining public safety," he said.
In 2000, Gardner pleaded guilty to committing a forcible lewd act on a 13-year-old girl after she testified that she escaped after he tried to strangle her. He served five years of a six year prison sentence and was released even though a psychiatrist told the court that Gardner "would be a continued danger to underage girls in the community."
The community where Gardner lived is now outraged to learn that Gardner often stayed with his mother, who lives near an elementary school.
"He is on the Megan's Law Web site and as long as he lived lawfully, he could walk where he wanted to walk," San Diego County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said.
There are 700,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Most states rely on sex offenders to register and notify authorities about their whereabouts, but 100,000 are considered noncompliant.
California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation came under intense scrutiny last year after 1991 kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard resurfaced and was found to have spent 18 years hidden in the backyard of registered sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy Garrido.
Dugard, who bore two children believed to have been fathered by Phillip Garrido, went undetected even though Garrido was a known violent offender. He was visited by parole officers and even police after a neighbor called in a tip that he might have someone living in his backyard.
Phillip and Nancy Garrido have pleaded not guilty to 29 felony charges, including rape and kidnapping.
Dugard, her two daughters and her mother are now suing the state for "various lapses" by the Department of Corrections. And the Office of the Inspector General released a scathing report in November finding numerous failings and missed opportunities by Garrido's parole officers.
Some Question Whether Sex Offenders Can Be Rehabilitated
Allen said immediate solutions to failures in tracking known sex offenders include better risk assessment of each offender as an individual and more time behind bars.
"Sentencing has to be improved for the most serious offenders and the public needs to be vigilant," he said.
Experts say potential predators, once out of prison, learn how to live beneath the public's radar and find loopholes in the laws meant to protect the public.
"There's little doubt that this case may become a kind of poster case for increased sanctions across the country against sexual offenders, so they do longer time," Jody Armour of the University of Southern California Law School said of the King disappearance.
But some people question whether full rehabilitation is ever possible.
"I'm not sure," Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said. "But we find that the same people commit the same kinds of crime."