Chelsea King's Father: 'Justice System Failed' to Protect Daughter

Family of killed high school student consoled by friends and community

ByABC News via logo
March 4, 2010, 3:54 PM

March 5, 2010— -- The criminal justice system failed to protect Chelsea King from being raped and murdered last week, when it allowed a convicted sex offender out of jail early and inadequately monitored him, her distraught father said today.

"It let our daughter down," Brent King said of the criminal justice system. "It let every child in this country down terribly. There's no doubt."

King and his wife Kelly were in the courtroom Wednesday when John Albert Gardner III pleaded not guilty to charges of raping and murdering 17-year-old Chelsea.

Gardner is a convicted sex offender who spent five years in prison for molesting a 13-year-old girl in 2000. When he was let out of prison early in 2005, one prison psychiatrist argued that Gardner should not be released, stating that he would continue to be a threat to girls and showed no remorse.

Chelsea's body was discovered Tuesday in a shallow grave near Lake Hodges, in the marshy park north of San Diego where she disappeared while running on Feb. 25. Gardner was arrested the following Monday, March 1.

Police now believe Gardner may be involved in a string of attempted abductions, and perhaps one other murder, going back at least a year ago.

"We want to assure that kids can be kids and be safe, and predators shouldn't be allowed to be within reach. They shouldn't be allowed to," King said during an appearance on the "Today" show.

King said the family had been embraced and buoyed by their community. Thursday was the first time the family left their home to get dinner together since Chelsea disappeared, choosing their 13-year-old son's favorite burrito shop.

"Everybody in the burrito shop pretty much came up and just gave us hugs and let us know that their prayers are with us, and that helps tremendously," King said.