Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lost Girls by Caitlin Rother

Lost Girls by Caitlin Rother
Published By: Pinnacle Books
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Format: Paperback - 420 pages / Kindle - 1930 KB / Nook - 3 MB
ISBN: 0786022183
Genre: True Crime / Nonfiction

About The Author:

New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother has written or co-authored eight books, including Poisoned Love (Kensington, December 2011), Dead Reckoning (Kensington, February 2011), Twisted Triangle (Wiley, 2009), Body Parts (Kensington, 2008), Deadly Devotion (Simon & Schuster / Pocket, July 2011), NYT bestseller My Life, Deleted (HarperOne, October 2011), and Naked Addiction (Dorchester, 2007). Her latest true crime project, Lost Girls (Kensington, July 2012), chronicles the rape and murder of two innocents, teenagers Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, by sexual predator John Gardner. Rother, a Pulitzer-nominated investigative journalist with more than 310,000 copies of her books in print, has also been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, and The Daily Beast. She has done dozens of TV and radio appearances as a crime expert on Nancy Grace, the Jay Thomas Show, E!, the Oxygen Network, Greta Van Susteren's On the Record, Investigative Discovery, America at Night, American Radio Network, XM and numerous NPR/PBS affiliates. Rother also works as a book doctor/editorial consultant and teaches journalism and creative writing at University of California, San Diego Extension.

BUY THE BOOK: Lost Girls

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.

Virtual Book Tour Event: On Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, author Caitlin Rother participated in a virtual book tour event with an Author Guest Post on Jersey Girl Book Reviews.

Book Description:

The desperate search for two lost innocents, Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, led authorities to a brutal predator hiding in plain sight: John Albert Gardner, a convicted sex offender who could have been returned to prison several times over. Pultizer-nominated writer Caitlin Rother delivers an incisive, heartbreaking true-life thriller about a case that galvanized its community, first by grief and goodwill, then by anger and injustice, as it came to grips with a flawed system that failed ... and adopted a law that will forever change how we keep our children safe.

Book Excerpt:

                                                   Chapter Two

About five miles east of Cathy's condo, in the cloistered community of Poway, Kelly and Brent King were just as, if not more, worried about their seventeen-year-old daughter, Chelsea. The pretty strawberry blonde, with blue eyes and a warm smile, had gone for a run on those very same trails that afternoon, and she hadn't come home for dinner either.

Poway, an affluent, white, family-oriented suburb of San Diego, called itself "The City in the Country" with good reason. Here, where the mountainous surroundings provided a protective psychological barrier of seclusion, residents had the illusory feel of living in a gated community where the bad guys from the big city didn't have the punch code to get in.

Even the landscape felt safe. Tall eucalyptus and pine trees lined the main thoroughfares; the lush, leafy medians were planted with yellow and orange daisies; and the homes, pockets of which sold for more than $1 million, sat on generous parcels set back from the roadway, with a benevolent back-drop of rolling green hills, peppered with beige boulders.

Deemed one of the best places to retire by U.S. News, Poway was the kind of tight-knit community where the Rotary Club, churches, temples and the PTA ruled the roost, and where urban crimes, such as murder and rape, were so rare they barely registered on the demographic pie charts used to characterize the quiet lifestyle of its nearly fifty thousand residents.

Chelsea King was born in San Diego County on July 1, 1992. During the C-section delivery, the doctor didn't remove the entire placenta, forcing Kelly to undergo a D&C and causing her to develop Asherman's syndrome, which can cause intrauterine scarring. A lawsuit the Kings filed in March 1995 cited potential infertility problems for Kelly, and $30,000 in projected costs of surrogacy for future pregnancies. Although the court record didn't reflect the specific outcome, the lawsuit was apparently dismissed within a year. This early private trauma must have made Chelsea even more dear to Brent and Kelly.

Brent loved to feed his baby girl and change her diapers. As she got older, he sang to her: "I am stuck on Chelsea, like Chelsea's stuck on me," to which she sang back, "I am stuck on Daddy, like Daddy's stuck on me," eliciting a hug and a laugh between them.

As Brent changed jobs in the banking industry, the family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and then Naperville, Illinois, where they stayed for ten years. They returned to Poway in 2007, when property records show that the Kings bought a house on a one-acre lot on Butterfield Trail.

Chelsea entered Poway High School as a freshman, discussing heady topics with her father such as the power of words, critical thinking and the presence of God in nature. They laughed together about God's sense of humor in making the platypus, and agreed that a tree, which gave far more than it took, was one of his most perfect creations.

In March 2010, Chelsea was a popular senior with a 4.2 grade point average, whose Advanced Placement courses outnumbered her regular classes. She served as a peer counselor, played on the volleyball team, and ran cross-country. She also enjoyed writing poetry, including a poem called "My Great Balancing Act," an homage to Dr. Seuss that would prove prophetic: "Today is my day, my mountain is waiting, and I'm on my way."

An environmentalist at heart, Chelsea was also a vegetarian, known to bring her lunch in a green recycling bag, determined to make a difference.

"She was all about making the world a better place, so for her it was like an animal shouldn't have to die for me to eat," one of her teachers said.

In the fifth grade, she'd decided to take up the French horn, refusing to be deterred by her music instructor's caution about how difficult the instrument was to learn.

"You sure you want to try that one, Chelsea?" the teacher asked.

"Yeah, the more challenging, the better for me," she replied.

Chelsea proved her determination by practicing until she was good enough to audition and win a coveted spot in the San Diego Youth Symphony for its 2009 to 2010 season, performing, no less, with its two most advanced ensembles. She was one of three French horn players in the Symphony Orchestra, which included about 150 students. She was also one of two horn players in the Philharmonia, a chamber orchestra of about eighty students. 

Although Chelsea still slept with a stuffed creature she'd taken to bed since she was a child, she was also a sophisticated thinker who inspired others with her achievements, posting quotes on her bathroom wall: "They can because they think they can," from Virgil, and "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams," by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Admired and respected by her peers, this five-feet-five-inch, 120-pound achiever was the female role model the other girls wanted to emulate, and the adults could see her promise and potential as well. She was the kind of daughter parents dreamed of having—a fact that was never overlooked by her own, who cherished her.

"We are blessed," they would tell each other at least once a week.

Chelsea had a strong spirit, a love for life and her family, and a strong mind all her own. Inseparable from her thirteen-year-old brother, Tyler, the two were best friends, looking out for one another, and rarely, if ever, fighting the way many siblings did. She made sure he did his homework, didn't stay up too late or play too much PlayStation. He, in turn, wanted to know her friends, and ensure that the boyfriend passed muster.

Given her grades and all her extracurricular activities, this bright and well-rounded teenager was viewed as such a strong candidate by the eleven colleges to which she applied that, ultimately, they all accepted her.

Chelsea usually went for a jog after school in Poway, but on February 25 she decided to run on the trails at the Rancho Bernardo Community Park, apparently scouting out the area for an environmental cleanup project she and her friends had planned for that Saturday. It was not for class credit or recognition, but rather to increase awareness.

Driving from Poway into neighboring Rancho Bernardo, the environs changed, but only subtly. It still looked lush, green and open, and it was still largely a family-oriented white community, but the area, known as "RB" to the locals, was home to more strip malls, senior communities and franchise restaurants. It felt a bit more urban.

As the nation's eighth largest city, San Diego was a metropolis where 1.2 million people lived across 324 square miles of vastly differing geography, carved into subregions by urban planners. Each had its own unique population and distinct character—east toward the desert, west to the coast, south to the border into Mexico, and north past Poway, RB, and Escondido, leading to Riverside and Orange Counties.

My Book Review:

Two innocent teenage girls ... one psychotic sexual predator ... two heinous, senseless murders that took the girls' lives one year apart and rocked the San Diego suburb communities of Poway and Escondido ...

Seventeen year old Chelsea King was a beautiful, popular, intelligent senior at Poway High School who had a promising future ahead of her. On February 25, 2010, Chelsea went jogging on the trails of Rancho Bernardo Community Park (Lake Hodges) after school let out. When she failed to come home, her parents immediately called the Poway Sheriff's office and reported her missing. Her father found her car in the park's parking lot with her purse and school clothes left inside the car. The police immediately launched a search for Chelsea with the help of the community volunteers and media. Sadly, Chelsea's body was found five days later on March 2, 2010 at the lake in a shallow grave.

Thirty year old John Albert Gardner, Jr., a bipolar sexual predator who was staying in the area at his mother's condominium was arrested on February 28, 2010 at a bar and restaurant in Escondido in connection to the disappearance and murder of Chelsea King. DNA evidence found on Chelsea's clothing along with witness accounts of seeing Gardner on the park's trails were enough to match Gardner to the crime.

To escape the death penalty, Gardner made a deal with the prosecutors and gave them information on the whereabouts of his first victim, fourteen year old Amber Dubois, who he abducted a year earlier on February 13, 2009 in Escondido. Amber Dubois' remains were found on March 6, 2010 on the grounds of  the Pala Indian Reservation.

On April 16, 2010, John Albert Gardner, Jr. plead guilty to the rape and murder of both Amber Dubois and Chelsea King. In addition, he plead guilty to the attempted rape of Candice Moncayo in December 2009. On May 14, 2010, Gardner was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Lost Girls is a chilling detailed account of the heinous and senseless rape and murder of two young girls by a psychotic sexual predator. Author Caitlin Rother provides the reader with an insightful look that shed light into the background of this psychotic murderer in an unbiased, thoughtful and well-researched descriptive way. The author has stated that her intention in writing this book was to provide an informative cautionary tale that would shed light into the broken criminal justice system's way of handling sexual predators that failed to protect the girls, and the inadequate services provided to people with mental health issues.

I believe that the author provided a very thorough and detailed chronological account into the background of Gardner, the murders of Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, and the legal process in a respectful and thoughtful way. I think the author wrote this book in an unbiased and professional way, even though the King and Dubois families did not authorize or participate in the preparing of this book. I do not believe that the author should be vilified for giving a true account into the horrifying, senseless and profoundly sad murders of these two innocent young girls. Even though the pain and grief must be beyond anything that anyone can imagine, perhaps if the families had contributed to the book, it would have become a more rounded and complete documented account, instead of erupting into a vicious uproar and causing an unfortunate controversy that does not solve anything in a constructive or positive way, nor does it help lessen the grief, pain and loss felt by the families. If you could consider this book and the enactment of Chelsea's Law as a positive step towards educating the public and safeguarding the safety of children from sexual predators, then Chelsea's legacy will forever be a shining beacon of light.

My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Amber Dubois and Chelsea King.



  1. Wow. I got goose bumps reading your review, Kathleen. What a terrific reviewer you are. Quite a controversial book - the book is well detailed in facts but yet the families are up in arms over its publication. I can't imagine the grief both families are feeling and maybe they wanted to take part in this book who knows but I think you did a terrific job reviewing this and I thank you!

    1. Thank you for the opportunity to read, review and host Caitlin's virtual book tour. Thank you for the comments, I appreciate it. :)