On March 30 at 6:30 p.m., a large crowd of people gathered at the Maranatha Chapel in Rancho Bernardo for a public forum hosted by Kelly and Brent King, the parents of murdered teen Chelsea King.
The forum was co-hosted by state assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. There were two panelists: Captain O'Hanlan, of the San Diego Police Department internet crimes against children (ICAC) task force; and Todd Spitzer, an outspoken assistant district attorney from Orange County.
The purpose of the forum was to promote the passage of “Chelsea’s Law,” which would mandate life in prison without the possibility of parole for convicted violent sex offenders.
As people entered the meeting, they were given an orange card to fill out with their contact information. The forum began with a prayer, then a video of Chelsea’s life was shown on two large screens at the front of the chapel as many attendees quietly wept.
Fletcher, Spitzer, and O'Hanlan educated the audience about Chelsea’s Law and then the audience was invited to ask questions or make comments.
Fletcher emphasized that public safety should be our highest priority. He asked people to sign up for the Chelsea’s Light Foundation on the Chelsea’s Light Foundation Facebook page. He said that in a few weeks they were going to introduce “Chelsea’s Law.” He asked the audience to fill out the orange cards so they could be contacted to write and phone legislators and ask them to pass Chelsea’s Law. Fletcher said if the law doesn’t pass, then the plan would be to get enough signatures to make it a ballot initiative.
Assistant district attorney Spitzer complained that the lax attitude of the department of corrections toward registered sex offenders was why Chelsea’s alleged murderer, John Gardner, was out of prison even after several parole violations.
Spitzer was upset that the parole board commented that the retention of John Gardner’s parole records (which were destroyed) wouldn’t have made a difference in preventing the crime he's accused of perpetrating. Spitzer said that the routine destruction of parole records after one year allowed them to cover up their mistakes.
SDPD captain O’Hanlan suggested implementing a system in which police officers are given detailed information on registered sex offenders in order to monitor them more closely; officers would find out they're dealing with a registered sex offender even writing a traffic ticket. Then the forum was opened up to the audience for comment.
Several people expressed condolences to the King family and praised them for having the courage to confront the problem of registered sex offenders in their neighborhoods.
Two people complained that there were registered sex offenders living in their neighborhoods who had access to their school because they had custody of children who were students there. Someone commented that sex offenders should never have custody of children, yet the family court routinely gives custody of children to sex offenders.
A man came forward to say he works for a company that is in the process of patenting a device that would alert a person’s cell phone if a registered sex offender came within a certain distance.
A high school teacher presented a student’s idea to legalize marijuana in order to make more room in prison for sex offenders.
Other problems that were addressed were the lack of tax dollars going to law enforcement to track sexually violent predators and the problem of registered sex offenders registering at one address and then living at another.
At the end of the forum, Kelly King spoke to the audience, saying her heart was not just broken but shattered because of the murder of Chelsea. She said the system was also not just broken but shattered and had to be rebuilt from the ground up, and then she thanked everyone.