Baltimore Sun

Gardner search warrant leaked

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A stash of shovels and pickaxes, a T-shirt and jeans were among the items seized from the Lake Elsinore home of John Albert Gardner III more than a week after he was arrested in the slaying of Poway teenager Chelsea King, according to search-warrant records.

The documents were obtained by Los Angeles radio station KFI-AM 640 and posted on the station’s Web site Thursday. The warrant is one of at least four that have been filed in the case. All are under court-ordered seal.

“I saw that it was posted on KFI, and other than that I can’t comment on it,” Deputy Public Defender Mel Epley, one of Gardner’s attorneys, said Thursday.

The District Attorney’s Office also declined to comment, citing a gag order in the case.

Steve Gregory, the reporter who obtained the documents, said in an interview that the warrant was not illegally obtained but was leaked to him. He said he had not been contacted by authorities about the leak as of 3 p.m. Thursday.

Gardner was arrested Feb. 28 at a restaurant near Lake Hodges. He has been linked to the crime through DNA evidence found on a piece of Chelsea’s clothing. He has pleaded not guilty to rape and murder charges.

Gardner is also a focus of an investigation into the 2009 death of 14-year-old Amber Dubois of Escondido, whose remains were found north of Pala on March 6.

In the search warrant filed March 9 in El Cajon Superior Court, sheriff’s investigators listed several items they were hoping to find, including specific pieces of clothing; rope, tape or handcuffs; human hairs, tissues or fluids; clothing or other objects with blood on them; and personal documents.

One of the pieces of clothing investigators hoped to find was a blue sweater with a horizontal stripe across the chest, according to the warrant.

In addition to Chelsea’s death, Gardner has been charged in a Dec. 27 attack on a jogger near Lake Hodges. Police at the time said the attacker was wearing a blue-and-white sweater and jeans. The victim, Candice Moncayo, declined to speak about the case Thursday.

In the March 9 search of Gardner’s home, authorities seized a shovel and pickax from near the front door, as well as 10 shovels and two pickaxes from a backyard shed, according to the documents.

Lake Elsinore neighbor Mary Cook said in an earlier interview that she saw sheriff’s investigators at the home the night of Gardner’s arrest, and that they appeared to be interested in the shed.

Also seized were five pairs of jeans, a white “Hard Iraq Cafe — Baghdad” T-shirt and a pair of size-12 Reebok sneakers from his bedroom. The blue sweater was not listed as seized.

The full address of the home was redacted in the search warrant, but the house number on the document coincides with that of Gardner’s home on Gillette Street in Lake Elsinore. The affidavit, which typically argues why investigators have probable cause to search a property, was not included with the warrant.

The warrant number on the radio station’s documents matches the number listed at Superior Court for the Lake Elsinore address.

The talk-radio station also posted letters purportedly written by Gardner — a handwritten one to a girlfriend that is not signed and a typed note to his mother that appears to have been sent from prison. Gregory, the reporter, declined to divulge the source of the letters.

Gardner, 31, was registered with police as living at the Lake Elsinore home, but he often stayed with his mother and stepfather in Rancho Bernardo, about a mile from Rancho Bernardo Community Park, where Chelsea went missing after a jog Feb. 25. Her body was found in a shallow grave on the shore of Lake Hodges five days later.

Authorities also searched Gardner’s mother’s home in Rancho Bernardo, a storage unit in Escondido and a car belonging to Gardner’s girlfriend, according to a search warrant log.

Defense lawyer Christopher Plourd, who is not working on the case, said that if the documents were leaked, a judge or the attorneys could launch an investigation to find out the source. Ultimately, the violator could be jailed or fined.

A status hearing in the case was scheduled for today. It is unclear what will be discussed.

Kristina Davis: (619) 542-4591;

Dana Littlefield

Dana Littlefield

Dana Littlefield is an editor at The San Diego Union-Tribune. After joining the U-T in 2000, she covered coastal cities – including Del Mar, Encinitas and Solana Beach – before moving to the courts beat. Littlefield has written about numerous high-profile civil and criminal cases, including the prosecution of double-murderer John Gardner III in 2010. A San Diego native, she earned her bachelor’s degree in American literature from the University of California Los Angeles and a master’s degree in mass communications from the University of Florida.

Kristina Davis

Kristina Davis

Kristina Davis joined The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2006 as a crime and public safety reporter and now covers federal courts and criminal justice issues. Raised in Tucson, Ariz., Davis began her career at Phoenix’s two daily newspapers after graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in journalism. She has gone on countless police ridealongs, spent 24 hours with a firefighting crew, trained with snipers and been shot with a Taser (yes, it hurt!). Her toughest assignment? Completing a grueling two-week SWAT academy alongside 60 officers. Her reporting has earned her several first-place journalism awards for breaking and criminal justice news in San Diego and Arizona, including the Society of Professional Journalists’ Best in Show for her 2009 story on using live pigs for military combat casualty care training.