SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — Amber Dubois and Chelsea King went missing from North County San Diego neighborhoods 10 and 9 years ago respectively this month. Their disappearances resulted in massive search efforts and an outpouring of community support.
While families, friends and complete strangers hoped for their safe returns, tragically neither was found alive. And though the two young girls never knew each other in life, they were linked in death when it was discovered that they had been abducted and murdered by the same man, John Gardner.
As these somber anniversaries remind us of young lives cut short, they are also a time to recognize the changes to the community that came as a result.
Amber and Chelsea’s families have kept the names and memories of their daughters alive in various ways so that they will never be forgotten in San Diego and beyond.
Since 2010, Amber’s mother Carrie McGonigle has honored her daughter by participating in searches for missing children and adults using search-and-rescue dogs. In 2011, Carrie and her dog located the remains of a local nursing student in Northern California. Carrie said her daughter would have said, “you go, mom!”
Starting in 2011, Chelsea’s parents Brent and Kelly have organized a yearly 5K race called “Finish Chelsea’s Run” which raises money for the Chelsea's Light Foundation, which provides scholarships to college-bound teens. 2019's race is scheduled for March 2.
The Kings also championed California's Chelsea's Law which increased punishments for sex offenders and put mandates in place for stronger oversight of sex offenders.
In 2014, Chelsea’s brother Tyler King honored his sister’s memory with a documentary he made called “Chelsea’s Light: A Brother’s Journey.”
The following News 8 clips serve as a reminder of the power of community coming together.
14-year-old Amber Dubois went missing on Feb. 13, 2009 while walking to school in the North County San Diego neighborhood of Escondido. Five days later, News 8's Adrienne Moore reported on the search-and-rescue efforts being made and the reactions from the teen's distraught parents.
A week after Amber Dubois went missing as she walked to Escondido High School, her family, friends and community came together for a candlelight vigil. News 8's Jeff Zevely reported from the vigil where 200 people were on hand including her parents and classmates who shared details about Amber's love for horses and books.
It had been a little over a year since Amber’s disappearance when another North County teen was reported missing just miles from the last place Amber was seen.
17-year-old Chelsea King went missing on February 25, 2010 while jogging at Rancho Bernardo Community Park. The search for the Poway High School Senior was in its fifth day when this News 8 report by Adrienne Moore highlighted the efforts to find Chelsea in an area near Lake Hodges.
The man ultimately found guilty of the abductions and murders of Chelsea King and Amber Dubois appeared in a San Diego courtroom for the first time in Chelsea's case on March 9, 2010, just a week after her body had been found. News 8's Phil Blauer reported as John Gardner stood accused in Chelsea's death and was then the focus in the case of Amber's death.
Much more went into the investigations into Chelsea and Amber’s untimely deaths. News 8 has many more reports related to court proceedings with John Gardner, but they won’t be shared in this story. Instead we would like to highlight the wonderful ways the girls’ memories live on thanks to their families, friends and community.
A year after Chelsea was abducted and murdered, a race in her name drew over 6,000 runners to Balboa Park on March 5, 2011. News 8's Adrienne Moore reported on the emotional and inspirational "Finish Chelsea's Run" event that has continued year after year.
In 2018, Amber’s mom Carrie McGonigle helped locate two missing teens with the help of two search-and-rescue dogs. Over the years, Team Amber Rescue has taken part in several searches for missing people from kids to adults. The organization was created by Carrie in honor of her daughter and she even named one of the dogs after the teen whose life was tragically taken from her. News 8’s Marcella Lee reported on the search and the difference Carrie was making in the community through her efforts.
Amber and Chelsea are greatly missed, and their stories remind us of real-life dangers to children.
Click the links below to learn more about the agencies in the U.S. and California that search for lost and missing children. There are also several resources with tips for protecting children and information about what to do if your child is missing.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit, California Department of Justice
FBI - Kidnappings & Missing Persons
Polly Klaas Foundation Master List of Missing Children
Association of Missing and Exploited Children’s Organizations
Child Abduction Prevention San Diego
To read more about Chelsea and Amber’s stories, click the links below.