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A decade later, remembering Chelsea King and Amber Dubois

Posted at 7:04 PM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-24 22:04:57-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - 10 years ago, a Poway teen disappeared during a jog, and a collective sense of security was never the same.

What followed were massive searches and an outpouring of support from the community. The investigation led to the arrest of the man who killed teenagers Chelsea King, 17, and Amber Dubois, 14.

Carrie Cave's daughter Amber vanished in 2009 while walking to Escondido High. She planned to purchase a lamb that day and raise it as part of a school program. Her fate was revealed a year later after Poway High School senior Chelsea King went missing during a jog near Lake Hodges.

"I remember not being able to breathe. Your whole body is shaking," said Brent King, Chelsea's father.

The evidence trail led to convicted sex offender John Gardner, who was ultimately convicted for a series of crimes, including the rape and murder of the two girls. Their bodies were recovered. After an emotional confrontation with Gardner in prison, Cave decided to forgive Gardner before he was sentenced.

"I got the answers about her last moments that I wanted ... I forgave him because I had another daughter to raise, and if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to live," said Cave.

Cave started a search and rescue group. Her dog Amber discovered the remains of missing San Diego native and nursing student Michelle Le in the Bay Area in 2011.

"It was a lot to take in. I sat under a tree for two hours and cried," said Cave.

That emotion is something the King family also knows well. The family channeled their grief and helped pass Chelsea's Law, a state law which enhanced sentences, parole terms and monitoring for violent sex offenders who commit crimes against children. To date, more than 2,500 offenders have been charged under Chelsea's Law.

"Because of Chelsea's Law, our children are safer, but that doesn't mean they're safe," said King.

Besides advocating for laws, the King family's nonprofit Chelsea's Light Foundation has handed out over $800,000 in scholarships to local children. A run celebrating Chelsea's memory was held for eight years, before coming to an end.

In 2014, Chelsea’s brother Tyler King directed a documentary he called “Chelsea’s Light: A Brother’s Journey.”

"She is with us. That's the best I can tell you. She drives us every day to smile, to see life in a really beautiful way," said King.

For Cave, a decade after the arrest of her daughter's killer, her grief is still complicated.

"It gets easier, but it still hurts ... I do good sometimes and then my emotions get all screwed up," said Cave.

Cave says her she's still forging her daughter's legacy. She plans to start fostering children in the probation system.

"Not many people are willing to take in the kids. I just want to help kids. That would be a good legacy," said Cave.