Warrants: Teen killer in Calif. stalked woman, associated with other teens

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Police believe a registered sex offender stalked a young woman about a year before his arrest and guilty pleas in the rapes and murders of two Southern California teenage girls, according to search warrants unsealed Wednesday.

A police officer in Escondido identified John Albert Gardner III as the driver of a gray vehicle that followed a woman on April 2, 2009, the documents state.

The woman, perhaps 20 years old, had flagged down the officer for help and said the driver had been following her all day for no reason.

The woman left the area before the officer could ask more questions. She has never been identified.

"The officer quickly contacted the vehicle as it tried to depart the area and identified the driver as Gardner," the warrant said without elaborating.

The warrants also said there were other incidents involving Gardner and his "association" with teenage females, including one in Escondido, perhaps in February, the same month Gardner killed 17-year-old Chelsea King.

The documents did not elaborate further on that issue.

Gardner, 31, will be sentenced to life in prison without parole on May 14 after pleading guilty to raping and murdering King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who vanished while walking to school in Escondido in February 2009.

Lt. Craig Carter, a spokesman for Escondido police, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gardner was registered to live in the north San Diego suburb from August 2008 to January 2010. He was released from prison in 2005 after serving five years of a six-year sentence for molesting a 13-year-old San Diego neighbor. He completed parole in September 2008, seven months before the alleged stalking incident.

The warrants — unsealed by Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney on a request by news organizations including The Associated Press — said investigators turned up no evidence in a search of Gardner's phone records after King disappeared Feb. 25 while running in a San Diego park.

A search warrant unsealed last week said an 11-year-old girl told San Diego police a man followed her home from school the day before Gardner killed King.

Gardner, in an interview that aired last week on KFMB-TV, sidestepped a question on whether he targeted other victims.

"Good try," he said and laughed.

The newly unsealed warrants said Gardner worked from August 2007 to October 2009 for Can-Do Electric Inc., an El Cajon company that does electrical work.

Bob Cantrell, president of the company, said Gardner worked as an electrician and was well-liked by his co-workers. He was hardworking, spoke up at training sessions and improved his skills during his time at the company.

"Our hearts are broken over the entire situation," Cantrell said. "We're praying for the families of the girls and for John and hoping the healing can get started."

Eds: CORRECTS timing in lede. ADDS details, comment from Gardner's former employer.