May 6, 2010 -- After more than a year of agonizing over her daughter's fate, the mother of a California teenager murdered by John Gardner wants details about her final hours.
For 13 months, Carrie McGonigle lived with the horrifying thoughts about what could have happened to her missing daughter, 14-year-old Amber DuBois.
Now that she knows her daughter was raped and murdered less than two hours after being snatched on her way to school, she wants to know how Gardner got her and why.
"The last hour of her life was spent with this freak," McGonigle said. "If I get some of my questions answered I'll be a lot better."
"I don't want to know gory details. I don't want to know if she suffered," she said. "I don't want to hear if she cried for me."
Though Gardner, 31, is a convicted sex offender who has confessed to raping and murdering both DuBois, who disappeared in February 2009, and Chelsea King, 17, whose body was found five days after she vanished on Feb. 25. He has taken the advice of his attorney and declined to sit down with his victims' families until after he is sentenced next week.
It's a choice that doesn't sit well with McGonigle who wants to hear what he has to say before she prepares the victim impact statement she'll read in court.
"There are things I want to say that nobody knows about except for me and the police," she said, declining to elaborate. "I won't feel comfortable saying the things I want to say to the world unless I have answers from him."
Gardner's lawyer, deputy public defender Michael Popkins, said he doesn't understand why McGonigle can't wait another eight days to speak to Gardner. He has advised his client not to say anything more about the crime until after sentencing.
Amber DuBois Disappeared on Her Way to School
Gardner is expected to be sentenced to life in prison.
"She says we're not allowing him. That's not the case. He will not see her on his own," he said. "My heart certainly goes out to both families, but I have to do what is ethically required to protect my client."
Popkins said that nothing the families say at sentencing will make Gardner change his mind about speaking to them afterward because "because it's the right thing to do, in his opinion."
Popkins said he has gotten McGonigle's list of questions and told her attorney that his legal team will give them to her, but McGonigle wants to hear it from her daughter's killer.
DuBois vanished Feb. 15 , 2009 within blocks of her school. She had been excited that morning about a Future Farmers of America project and was carrying a check for $200 to buy a baby lamb.
Witnesses later said they saw her walking with a tall man. McGonigle thinks that man may have been Gardner. She had just talked with Amber the week before about never going off with a stranger.
"The only way he would have got her ... is if he had a knife or a gun and walked up on her," she said.
Gardner told a San Diego television station last month that he felt remorse for the murders, but that he suffered from "major rage" and couldn't control himself.
Was he in a rage the entire time he drove Amber 30 minutes north of her hometown, where she was killed and buried, McGonigle wondered? What did they talk about? What did she say to him?
Amber's father, Moe DuBois, who is divorced from McGonigle, does not share his ex-wife's desire to sit down with Amber's killer and said he's concerned that if she gets her way, Gardner could change his mind about pleading guilty.
"We don't want to take any chance of affecting his decision on going through with what's been proposed," Moe DuBois said.
"At this point I have no idea whether I would ever want to speak to him," he said.
Chelsea King's Parents Will Speak at Gardner's Sentencing
Sara Muller Fraunces, a spokeswoman for Chelsea King's parents, declined to comment on whether they'd be interested in ever speaking to Gardner.
"They're keeping their feelings private," she said. "They'll speak at the sentencing and that's where they're focused."
In his jailhouse interview with San Diego station KFMB that did took long walks and drives to calm his rage, but that he couldn't stop himself from killing Amber and Chelsea.
"I was aware of what I was doing, but I could not stop myself," he told KFMB. "I was in a major rage and pissed off -- pissed off at my whole life and everybody that's hurt me and blew up, and I hurt the wrong people."
Gardner then laughed when asked if there were any more victims, telling the reporter, "Nice try."
Gardner denied that it was the threat of the death penalty in the King case that convinced him to tell police where DuBois' was located.
"I told them with no promise of a deal," he said. "I had no promises, and I showed them where Amber was because I felt bad."
But he also criticized school budget cuts and suggested that if DuBois had been on a bus and not on foot, he wouldn't have killed her.