Calif. bill would crack down on child molesters

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California would send some child molesters to prison for life after a first conviction and monitor others with tracking technology until they die under legislation proposed Monday in the name of a slain San Diego County teenager.

The measure, named Chelsea's Law, seeks to tighten California's already stringent laws covering convicted sex offenders.

"These offenders cannot be rehabilitated. They do not deserve a second chance," said Brent King, whose 17-year-old daughter Chelsea disappeared in a wilderness park during an afternoon run.

Brent King and his wife Kelly spoke at a news conference at the state Capitol in support of the bill by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego.

"I will do all I can to protect other daughters and sons, and other mothers and fathers from going through this incomparable nightmare that I'm walking through," said Kelly King, choking back tears. A large, smiling photograph of Chelsea stood nearby.

Convicted child molester John Albert Gardner III, 31, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of King. Gardner served five years of a six-year sentence for child molestation and was on parole for three years until September 2008.

Fletcher said he focused his bill on violent child molesters — "the worst of the worst."

The proposed life sentence would be reserved for offenders convicted of forcible sex crimes against children under 18 with aggravating factors such as kidnapping, use of a weapon, torture, binding or drugging a victim or a previous sex crime conviction.

That would represent an increase from the current 15-year to 25-year sentence for a first offense involving a child under 18.

Fletcher's bill also would double prison terms for certain other sex crimes involving children, and ban sex offenders from safe zones established around parks frequented by children.

Current law already requires lifetime electronic monitoring for many sex offenders. However, most electronic monitoring ends when offenders complete parole because counties and cities do not take over when the state ends its supervision. Fletcher's bill would make it the state's responsibility to monitor offenders for life.

Fletcher said he does not yet know how much the measure would cost or how many offenders it would affect.

The bill has bipartisan support from San Diego's legislative delegation. It's set for its first hearing April 20 before the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Supporters plan to hand state lawmakers sunflowers, Chelsea's favorite flower, as they urge them to support the measure with another news conference and office visits on Tuesday.

A San Diego radio personality has chartered a bus to bring residents to the state Capitol for the event.