John Gardner III escapes the death penalty in the deal supported by the victims' families

By Howard Breuer
Updated April 16, 2010 08:25 PM

Amber Dubois’s father supported the plea deal. So, too, did Chelsea King’s. Both men said that the alternative would have been worse.

On Friday, sex offender John Gardner III escaped the death penalty in admitting to murdering both 14-year-old Amber and 17-year-old Chelsea. Authorities also announced it was Gardner who had led them last month to the remains of Amber, who had been missing for the more than a year.

Gardner 31, pleaded guilty in a San Diego County court to strangling Chelsea, whose body was found in a San Diego area park five days later last February, and stabbing Amber in a remote location near Pala, Calif., during attempted rapes. He also admitted attacking a female jogger, who escaped, last December.

Under the agreement, Gardner will be returned to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

In a news conference, Amber’s father, Maurice Dubois, said the deal provides “justice and closure,” while Chelsea’s father Brent Kelly said a long trial would have had a “destructive effect” on their 13-year-old son and the community, the Los Angeles Times reports.