By KELLY WHEELER
City News Service
The parents of slain Poway High senior Chelsea King called Tuesday for swift changes in the law to strengthen protections for children against violent sexual predators.
The 17-year-old honors student disappeared Feb. 25 during a run in Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Her body was discovered five days later in a tributary of Lake Hodges.
Convicted sex offender John Albert Gardner III is charged with her rape and murder.
"If our laws were smarter and bolder, Chelsea might still be here," said her father, Brent King. "If there was greater accountability for enforcement of existing laws, Chelsea might still be here.
"If our elected officials ... Republicans, Democrats, assemblymen and congressmen, judges and governors ... made decisions based on how that decision would affect their own daughter or their own son, there'd be swift and decisive reform for all of our children now," he said.
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, whose 75th District includes Rancho Bernardo and Poway, said a proposed new law designed to better protect children against sexual predators — called Chelsea's Law — will be introduced early next month.
"This heartbreaking case has left a lot of unanswered questions about how our criminal justice system failed, about how it failed Chelsea and unfortunately about how it continues to leave all of our children at risk," Fletcher said.
Questions remain about what changes need to be made to better protect children against violent sexual predators, the assemblyman said.
"Primary among these is what policy changes can we take to best protect our children to honor the memory of Chelsea King and to ensure that no family has to go through what the King family is experiencing every single day," Fletcher said.
Chelsea's mother said she is committed to bringing about changes in the law that will better protect children from violent sexual predators.
"I promise to do all I can to protect other daughters and other mothers from the incomprehensible nightmare I'm walking through," Kelly King said. "I need every parent, every lawmaker, every citizen to stand with me.
"I'm strong, but the weight of this task ahead will take every single one of us," she said. "I beg everyone to be relentless and join a new group of warriors — warriors for change, and for Chelsea's light."
The reform effort will initially focus on three areas — the need to enact an effective "one-strike" sex offender provision, parole reform and better GPS tracking, Fletcher said.
Brent and Kelly King have established the Chelsea's Light Foundation, designed to support legislative, educational and other viable remedies to support sexual predators from harming children.
The "Chelsea's Law Forum" will be held March 30 at Maranatha Chapel in Rancho Bernardo to offer the community a chance to learn about the existing sex offender laws and to give input into what can be done to better protect children, Fletcher said.