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Chelsea King's murder spurs nationwide movement to protect kids

Posted at 2:23 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 17:23:30-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Tuesday marked the the 10-year anniversary of one of the most chilling murders in the history of San Diego County.

Chelsea King, 17, was raped and murdered by a registered sex offender as she was out for jog around Lake Hodges in 2010.

Today, her family launched a nationwide organization called "Protect the Joy" that will work to protect children.

RELATED: A decade later, remembering Chelsea King and Amber Dubois

Life changed for Brent King and his wife Kelly a decade ago. Their only daughter was missing out for a run then, nowhere to be found.

"You can't breathe. Your whole body is shaking, your chest is as tight as it's ever been," Brent King said. "You can't be in enough places at once. Every horrible thought is running through your mind as to whats happening … you know ... Where's my little girl?"

After five excruciating days came the most brutal news of all. Chelsea's body was found buried in brush along the banks of Lake Hodges.

"The hardest memory I have is the day that Sheriff Johnson pulled me aside and told me what had happened. And I then shared that with Kelly and Tyler," King said. "That was the hardest moment for me of my life. To not only to understand what had happened to my little girl, but then to have to share that with the two people that I care for the most."

The community came together in sadness. Within weeks thousands gathered to finish Chelsea's run. It would become an annual event for the next eight years.

The King family established the Chelsea's Light Foundation. To date, it's awarded over $800,000 in scholarships to local students. California lawmakers passed Chelsea's Law, which established stricter penalties for sex crimes against children.

But the Kings aren't done. They're launching an organization called Protect the Joy to work on passing legislation to protect children across the country.

"[It's] really an umbrella organization that will work on passing legislation that will protect our kids from all those things out there," King added.

All those things that threaten the safety of children, everything from gun violence, opioid abuse, sexual predators, and bullying. King says the new group will work with communities to pass laws to protect children. A lofty goal, he acknowledges.

"Well Chelsea always tells us to go big or home. And if you are going to do something than do it right. Do it all the way," King said.

King says he's learned over the course of his time grieving that he can find joy in people's eyes, in being connected with others and trusting in the good of people. But as he sets out to grow the organization, he struggles to change policy will not be his only burden.

"The hard days for me is when I have to attend a wedding," King said. "Those things that a dad and a mom get to do with their kids that Kelly and I don't get to do."