Colorado

Sep 25, 2010 12:47 AM by Matt Stafford

Close call for Springs college student highlighted on NBC's Dateline

Friday night Dateline on NBC featured John Gardner, a convicted sex offender who was released from prison in California, only to rape and murder two teenagers.  Gardner made an attempt on another young woman jogging in California, a Colorado Springs college student, but she was able to get away.

After getting away, Candice Moncayo was able to help investigators put Gardner back behind bars, likely never to be released.

In February 2009, teenager Amber Dubois went missing near San Diego.  There were large, yet unsuccessful, search attempts for the girl who disappeared while walking to school.

Almost exactly one-year later, another teenager, Chelsea King, went missing in a nearby area while on a run.  King's body was eventually found, raped and murdered.  Investigators found a DNA clue at the scene, leading to the person who they though may have caused both disappearances. 

"The DNA came back, and it came back to a sex registry," a case investigator with the San Diego County Sheriff's Office told NBC's Dateline.

The name was John Gardner, a convicted sex offender from a crime in 2000.

Days after King went missing, Gardner was arrested for her rape and murder.  Investigators were still looking for Dubois.

Sheriff's deputies started asking if there were any other attacks.  They found another in December of 2009, in the same park where King disappeared.

It was Colorado Springs college student Candice Moncayo who was attacked.  She got away after elbowing Gardner in the nose.

Police called Moncayo in after Gardner was arrested to look at a line up.

"...and she picked John Gardner instantly," the Sheriff's Office investigator told Dateline.

Gardner eventually pleaded guilty in March in a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.  In exchange he confessed to the murder of Dubois, leading investigators to her body.  He also admitted to the attack on Moncayo.  She spoke at his sentencing in May.

"Everyday I lace up my shoes and relive the moments of terror, the utter conviction that I was going to die," Moncayo said in a courtroom, just feet away from Gardner.

After getting through what Gardner had done to her, Moncayo ended her speech by returning another shot of her own.

"...and finally to ask him how his nose is," Moncayo said.

Cameras caught Gardner's reaction as he turned to his attorney to say, "She didn't hit me."

Gardner added, "She's saying it for publicity."

He may have gotten out before, but this time Gardner will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Gardner was sentenced in May to two life sentences without parole, another 25 years for the attempted rape and murder of Moncayo, and also 24 years for a prior sexual assault conviction.  The judge ordered the sentences to be severed consecutively.

Also stemming from these attacks, Chelsea's Law" is now on the books in California -- named for one of Gardner's victims, Chelsea King.  That puts some convicted sex offenders in prison for life, without the possibility of parole.

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