SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered a review Friday of the way the state handled a molestation case involving a man who is now charged with murdering one California teenager and under investigation in another killing.
The order came a day after The Associated Press disclosed John Albert Gardner III could have been sent back to prison in 2007 for parole violations and evaluated for possible commitment to a state mental hospital as a sexually violent predator.
"We must learn from what happened in this case to make sure the public is protected from sexual predators," Schwarzenegger said in a statement detailing his order to the state Sex Offender Management Board.
Gardner, 30, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of 17-year-old Chelsea King in San Diego County. He also is a suspect but has not been charged in the killing of 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who disappeared as she walked to school in Escondido in early 2009.
The 17-member board includes law enforcement officials, crime victims, treatment experts and others who advise the governor and Legislature on sex offender policies.
Gardner pleaded guilty in 2000 to molesting a 13-year-old neighbor. He spent five years in prison and three years on parole before being released from supervision in September 2008.
Parole records independently obtained by the AP showed Gardner could have been sent back to prison in 2007 and 2008 for violations that included living too close to a college daycare center.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has said it was trying to determine if actions regarding Gardner's parole were consistent with policy and law.
"We are taking every appropriate step to review these case factors to determine if these potential infractions warranted a return to prison on their merits," Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate said in a statement.
Oscar Hidalgo, spokesman for the department, previously said Gardner was considered to be a low- or moderate-risk sex offender, based on the assessment in use at the time.
He wasn't sent back to prison in September 2007 because he corrected the residency violation by moving away from the daycare center, Hidalgo said.
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, called for an investigation of the department and intends to hold public hearings before proposing legislation to increase penalties and oversight of sex offenders.
Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, said he would amend one of his existing bills now in the state Senate to increase the penalty for a first offense of raping a minor to a mandatory 25 years to life in prison.
The current punishment is 15 years to life and also depends on the age of the victim. Nava is a former prosecutor who is running for attorney general.
Nava's bill also proposes creating a system to call the cell phones of residents in a specific area letting them know when a sex crime has been committed in their neighborhood.