Gardner had MySpace page despite parole rule

Posted on April 1, 2010. Filed under: Crime, Parole |

Accused killer’s terms of release banned use of the Internet

By Jeff McDonald, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

Originally published March 31, 2010 at 6:18 p.m., updated March 31, 2010 at 8:44 p.m.

His screen name was Jason the Stud, and he called himself the Energizer Bunny. He used sexually charged language when describing his interests. He listed his hometown as the Playboy Mansion and he called love “one big ugly compromise of two people pretending not to know what the other is doing.”

John Albert Gardner III, the convicted sex offender now accused of raping and killing Poway teenager Chelsea King, opened a MySpace page in December 2007 — even though according to terms of his parole he was not allowed anywhere near a computer.

State prison officials said they were not aware Gardner was active on any social networking site while he was under their supervision from 2005 until September 2008.

When presented with printouts of the material and an e-mail account linked to Gardner’s Escondido address after a legislative hearing in Poway today, they pledged to review the information and add it to an ongoing investigation.

“If this is an issue, we’re going to make sure (the Sex Offender Management Board) addresses it,” said Oscar Hidalgo of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has directed the sex-offender board to review how effectively the prison agency supervised Gardner. The 30-year-old convicted sex offender is known to have violated parole conditions seven other times but was never sent back to prison.

Lawmakers and others have criticized the state prison system for failing to properly monitor Gardner, whose violations included living in Mira Mesa too close to a day-care center and letting the battery run low on his electronic monitor.

In a 2007 addendum to the release conditions for John Albert Gardner III related to computer use, Gardner initialed both conditions. He opened a MySpace account three months later. (Click image above to see a larger version.)

Gardner’s MySpace account was discovered by Robert Scott, a Los Angeles private investigator who operates an online data-retrieval service called Skip Smasher. It was taken down tonight after this story was first posted online.

Scott said he was demonstrating his service to potential clients at a workshop last week and plugged Gardner’s name into one of his search engines. An e-mail account registered to the suspect popped up.

The Los Angeles investigator was quickly able to link the e-mail address to the MySpace account. Just as quickly, he was able to confirm that it belonged to the accused killer by matching Gardner’s date of birth, Escondido address and postings from a girlfriend.

“If we were able to find his MySpace page, then (parole agents) should have been able to find his MySpace page,” Scott said. “That’s what they’re getting paid to do. That’s what their job is.”

In addition to Skip Smasher, two other online data services confirmed Gardner’s connection to the Yahoo e-mail account used to open the social-networking account, according to documents obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Gardner was convicted of molesting a 13-year-old girl in Rancho Bernardo in 2000. He served five years in prison and was paroled in September 2005.

It is not clear from the parole records released to date whether Gardner was prohibited from using computers between 2005 and 2007. But in an addendum to his release conditions dated Sept. 25, 2007, Gardner was told: “You shall not use, possess or have access to any electronic or computer equipment that is attached to a modem” and “You shall not use a computer to communicate with others.”

Gardner initialed both conditions before signing the bottom of the six-page addendum. His MySpace account was opened three months later.

Robert Ambroselli, the state director of parole operations, looked at copies of Gardner’s MySpace page after a state Assembly committee hearing in Poway today and said he would need time to review the materials before making any public statement.

“This is the first I’m seeing of this,” he said.

Hidalgo, the prisons’ assistant secretary for communications, said field agents work to enforce all parole conditions but declined to elaborate. He said the agency could not immediately verify the authenticity of the records.

Advocates for children and former parole agents say a fundamental element of properly supervising a convicted sex offender is making sure they are not using computers.

“Social-networking and other Internet sites provide sex offenders an easy opportunity to connect with kids in a low-risk way where they can be virtually anonymous,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

“The challenge is you have to keep looking,” said Allen, who sent a team to San Diego to help in the search for Chelsea before her body was found near Lake Hodges five days after she disappeared. “A lot of offenders come up with new e-mail addresses.”

Retired parole agent Caroline Aguirre said she always scoured sex offender homes for evidence of Internet. She also said every parole office has access to technology experts to help them conduct Internet searches like the one Skip Smashers performed.

“Parole agents just have to get out there and do it,” said Aguirre, a Los Angeles agent who retired in 2007. “Most of these contacts you’re seeing across the nation are from people getting on the Internet and luring girls to different locations.”

Executives from social-networking sites are well aware that their products are used by sex offenders.

In 2007, MySpace announced it was purging almost 30,000 accounts created by registered sex offenders. But with more than 600,000 registered sex offenders across the nation, and the population growing every day, it is difficult to exclude them completely.

Gardner’s MySpace page

States are beginning to regulate computer use by convicted sex offenders too.

In December, Facebook and MySpace closed accounts for more than 3,500 sex offenders in New York State, according to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The action was taken under a state law known as e-STOP, the Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act, which bans sex offenders from using social-networking sites and requires them to register all e-mail addresses with the state.

In the weeks since Chelsea was killed, several politicians across California have pledged to pass similar legislation.

Gardner’s MySpace page lists “CSI” and “Bones” as two of his favorite television shows. His last posting illustrates one criticism of residency restrictions for sex offenders that lead to instability when they are released into society.

“I’m poor, homeless and living in my truck,” it says.

Gardner last logged in on Feb. 24, the day before Chelsea went missing.

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