Chelsea King: Police Find Body Believed to Be Missing Teen Runner

Days after sex offender is arrested, body thought to be student is discovered.

March 2, 2010, 7:30 AM

March 2, 2010— -- Searchers found a body today believed to be 17-year-old San Diego high school student Chelsea King, who went missing when she went for a run in a park near her home last week, the San Diego County sheriff said.

The body was found in a shallow grave 10 feet from the shore of Lake Hodges, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said today at a news conference.

"While the body has not been positively identified, there is a strong likelihood that we have found Chelsea," he said.

The body was found around 1 p.m. PT, he said, and the teen's parents have been notified.

"Obviously, they are devastated and I ask that you respect their privacy during this extremely difficult time," he said.

The discovery came six days after King went missing on Feb. 25 and two days after police arrested John Albert Gardner III, a convicted sex offender whose DNA they said was found on King's clothing near where police believe she was abducted.

The search for King began the evening she disappeared and intensified each day, as the FBI and members of local law enforcement agencies, supported by hundreds of volunteers, scoured the marshy areas near Lake Hodges, where King often went for lengthy jogs.

Authorities also employed teams of sniffer dogs, unmanned drone aircraft and helicopters equipped with infrared sensors to help find the straight-A high school senior, who also ran cross country at Poway High School and played in the school symphony.

Gardner, 30, was arrested on suspicion of rape and first degree murder and is scheduled to be charged Wednesday in a San Diego Court.

Police said Gardner, who was arrested in 2000 for committing lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14, may also be connected to the disappearance of Amber DuBois, a 14-year-old who disappeared near San Diego on her way to school in February 2009.

Chelsea King's Alleged Killer Linked to Earlier Attack

Authorities Monday also linked Gardner to an attack on 23-year-old Candice Moncayo, who identified Gardner from a mug shot as the man who attacked her weeks before along the same running path where King went missing.

Moncayo was able to fend off her attacker by elbowing him in the face and running away.

"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.'"

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.

Chelsea King's Alleged Killer Was Called 'a Continued Danger to Girls'

"She is shaken up, but she's a strong girl," Kayla told ABC News today. "She has the joy of the lord on her."

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."

Members of the community where Gardner lived said they were outraged to learn that Gardner often stayed with his mother, who lives near an elementary school.