The body of 17-year-old high school student Chelsea King was believed to have been found Tuesday in a shallow grave near a lake not far from her northern San Diego County home, authorities said.
““There is a strong likelihood we have found Chelsea,” said Sheriff Bill Gore at a Tuesday afternoon news conference, confirming the worst fears of the Poway High School senior’s family and friends who had harbored hopes that she might still be alive.
King, a straight-A student and cross-country runner, had been missing since Thursday, when she went out for a run in hilly parkland near Lake Hodges, located near Escondido.
A convicted sex offender, John Albert Gardner III, 30, was arrested Sunday night in connection with King’s disappearance and will be charged Wednesday, according to the San Diego County district attorney’s office.
King’s disappearance prompted an outpouring of support in San Diego and beyond, with hundreds of people joining search efforts and more than 76,000 becoming fans of a Facebook page. Her parents, Brent and Kelly King, appeared on national news broadcasts expressing the belief that she was still alive.
Authorities said earlier Tuesday that Gardner had been linked to an attack in December on a 22-year-old woman in the same park where King disappeared. Gardner allegedly tackled the woman and demanded money. She escaped after hitting Gardner in the face, San Diego police said.
Gardner is registered as a sex offender and lives in Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, but he had been visiting his mother in Rancho Bernardo, just south of Lake Hodges, officials said.
Gardner served five years in connection with a 2000 attack on a 13-year-old girl, officials said. After getting out of prison, he wore a global positioning system tracking device until his parole ended in 2008, Gore said.
— Richard Marosi in San Diego
Photo: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times; Mugs of Gardner and Chelsea (AP)