SAN DIEGO -- A sex offender who admitted murdering two teenage girls was sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday after crying as the victims' families denounced him, the legal system and his mother.
John Albert Gardner III received two consecutive life terms without possibility of parole for murdering Chelsea King, 17, and Amber Dubois, 14, and a third life term with a 25-year minimum for the attempted rape of Candice Moncayo, a jogger who escaped by smashing him in the nose with an elbow.
Gardner, 31, who reached a plea deal that spared him the death penalty, breathed heavily and cried at times during emotional statements by the girls' parents and Moncayo before Superior Court Judge David Danielsen pronounced the sentence.
Carrie McGonigle, Amber's mother, said there were not enough words to describe her "minute-by-minute agony."
"I've thought often about her final moments," she said of her daughter. "Was she scared? Was she calling my name?"
Addressing Gardner, she said: "Most of all I'm confident that you'll never make it to heaven."
Gardner's guilty plea last month has sparked a far-reaching review of how California deals with sex predators, a campaign that advocates hope to take to Washington and state capitals.
Calls to stiffen penalties for child sex offenders began almost the moment Gardner was arrested Feb. 28, three days after he attacked Chelsea while she was on an afternoon run in San Diego, strangled her, and buried her in a shallow, lakeside grave.