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Sex offender held in missing teen case

SAN DIEGO, March 1 (UPI) -- Investigators were searching Monday for a 17-year-old San Diego-area girl who authorities fear was killed by a sex offender.

John Albert Gardner III, 30, who told police he lived in Lake Elsinore, Calif., was being held on suspicion of murder and rape in the disappearance of Chelsea King of Poway in San Diego County, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

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San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said Sunday night physical evidence allegedly pointed investigators to Gardner, but refused to elaborate.

Gore said authorities were still looking for Chelsea, who disappeared after a run Thursday evening in Rancho Bernardo Community Park.

Gardner was arrested about 4:20 p.m. Sunday in front of a popular restaurant in Del Dios on the west shore of Lake Hodges, Gore said.

Chelsea's parents, Kelly and Brent King, said in a statement they would keep looking for their daughter.

"Nothing will change for us until our beautiful daughter, Chelsea King, comes home," the statement said. "We will continue searching for her, and we ask that all of you do the same until she's back with us."

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The search for the straight-A high school senior has spread beyond the park, where her father found her locked car in the parking lot, to Lake Hodges, Gore said.

Gardner is a registered sex offender convicted of committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child younger than 14, the Union-Tribune said. Details of a 2000 criminal San Diego Superior Court case he was involved in were not available, the newspaper said.

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