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Friday, July 6, 2012

"Lost Girls" by Caitlin Rother ~ Amber Dubois & Chelsea King

Chelsea King was a popular high school senior, an outstanding achiever determined to make a difference. Fourteen-year-old Amber Dubois loved books and poured her heart into the animals she cared for. Treasured by their families and friends, both girls disappeared in San Diego County, just eight miles and one year apart. The community's desperate search led authorities to John Albert Gardner, a brutal predator hiding in plain sight. Now Pulitzer-nominated author Caitlin Rother delivers an incisive, heartbreaking true-life thriller that touches our deepest fears.

"Will keep you on the edge of your seat."—Aphrodite Jones

"An exciting page-turner."—M. William Phelps

"Rother is one of the best storytellers in true crime." —Steve Jackson

Includes dramatic photos

About the Author :
Caitlin Rother, a Pulitzer Prize nominated investigative journalist, is the author of Poisoned Love, the true story of the Kristin Rossum murder case, and the thriller Naked Addiction. Rother has written for Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Los Angeles Daily News, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe.

The Dame's Review :
"The Lost Girls" is a record of the story behind the brutal murders of Amber Dubois and Chelsea King two teen aged girls who were stolen from the hearts of their families and communities by a sexual predator without moral conscience in San Diego County in early 2009 and 2010.   It is a book that shines a light on many things, but is not one that leaves anything resolved.  Questions are probed on several counts, including an interview with the actual murderer John A. Gardner, Jr., but as in most cases of this sort...there are no real answers found there, either.

What I came away with after reading Ms Rother's account in her book was a couple of things.  One was that there is always and ever an attempt by the families of these animalistic murderers to blame the "system" for their child's "insanity" that made them commit the crime they did.  It seemed in this book that Gardner's hard working and conscientious mother wanted to place blame squarely on the shoulders of a mental health and drug rehab. system that failed to take her sick son in and help him into a treatment program just days before he killed Chelsea.  And, she expressed frustration throughout in how medical professionals and others in the court system failed to do right by her poor demented boy.  I found this posture a mixed bag of disgust and pity.  First, because I know it to be partly true, and secondly because I know it's easy to pass the blame onto a social system when responsibility needed to have been taken for such a person over a long term.  Mothers/families know when a child is severely disturbed...all other things must be put aside to help such a child.  John Gardner's mother was busy when he needed her....busy getting advanced degrees in psychiatric nursing (of all things!) which took her away from her family for long hours nearly every day.  And busy throughout his life with long hours away on other family doings.  He needed close supervision from a mother, and she needed counselling as much as he did.  It wasn't her fault he ended up a murderer, but she need not have placed so much blame on the social systems.  I thought there should have been a more even balance.

As to social systems and the courts responsibilities in this matter:  they did fail the Gardners.  They took less care of a child who was certainly mentally ill.  They passed the buck it seemed on his medical issues.  And, the court system and medical experts within that system in particular failed to recommend the proper confinement for him.  If any of these "systems" had be properly working, John Gardner would have been incarcerated and kept off the streets when he committed murder of the girls.

On another point, I was completely disgusted by John Gardner, himself.  Rother's interview with him was, as she'd expected, fruitless.  He was a self-serving fool of a person.  Immature and self-serving, he seemed to take pleasure also in placing the blame on the courts and social services for his actions.  He was a sociopath who had been primed by his life-style...perhaps his home enviroment... to believe the world owed him a fair shake or he'd "have" to get angry and "pay them back" for the way he'd been ignored in his time of need.

All together, this was a book that turned my stomach.  However, the redeeming qualities of a book such as this are in the same qualities that make such a disgusting crime at all livable, and that is that good came out of the ashes.  We now have the Amber Alert which is a law passed that helps track and rescue all other children who go missing in this country.  Through the efforts of Amber's parents and friends other children will have a chance of being found in a shorter amount to time.  And because of Chelsea's law new ways of dealing with sex offenders have been put into place in the court systems.  Click here to learn more about a recent move to use GPS sysems to track recent sex offenders: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/TheLaw/chelseas-law-track-sex-offenders-gps/story?id=10063652

John A. Gardner, Jr. isn't a name I was as familiar with as Amber DuBois and Chelsea King, which makes me very happy.  I'm glad that the real champions of this story have taken prescedence in my mind and hopefully, in the minds of all the world.  The heroines of this story are the young girls who gave their lives for the lives of so many other children in distress.

While "Lost Girls" isn't a comfortable book to read, it is one that I think is important and a good one in terms of keeping us in mind of what the background is on so many levels of sexual devie


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