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Lost Girls

Lost Girls

3.9 44
by Caitlin Rother

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Praise for Caitlin Rother and her true-life thrillers

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

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

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


Praise for Caitlin Rother and her true-life thrillers

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

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

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.

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

Includes dramatic photos

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
New York Times-best-selling author and Pulitzer-nominated journalist Rother (Dead Reckoning) follows the disturbing story of John Gardner, who kidnapped, raped, and murdered two teenage girls in San Diego. The victims' families did not speak with the author for her book, but the killer's family did. Unsurprisingly, Rother paints a sympathetic portrait of Gardner's family, particularly his mother, who struggled to raise her troubled son. The story is gruesome and upsetting, with a seemingly endless supply of horrible events, indefensible people, and family anguish. The case did result in a California law designed to oversee and punish sex offenders, and Rother addresses the complexity and difficulty of managing paroled sexual predators. VERDICT For true crime fans who can stomach a story about murdered teenagers. This book will be popular with fans of Rother, Ann Rule, and other popular true crime writers.—Kate Sheehan, Bibliomation, Middlebury, CT

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Read an Excerpt

Lost Girls

By Caitlin Rother

Pinnacle Books

Copyright © 2012 Caitlin Rother
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7860-2218-2

Chapter One

John Gardner's mother was worried. The bipolar mood swings, erratic behavior and suicidal impulses that had periodically plagued her thirty-year-old son since he was a child were not only back but worse than she'd ever seen them.

When Cathy Osborn left her condo for her psychiatric nursing job the morning of February 25, 2010, John was asleep on the futon in her home office, where he stayed when he visited. Cathy called his cell phone and texted him numerous times throughout the day to see how he was doing, but she got no response. When he didn't answer his phone, something was usually up.

That evening after work, John was still missing in action, so she decided to combine her usual run with a search for her wayward son, an unemployed electrician and unmarried father of twin sons. Having completed fifteen full marathons, as well as fifteen half marathons, Cathy routinely jogged five to seven miles around Lake Hodges in nearby Rancho Bernardo Community Park. But she was so worried about John and his well-being that she didn't really feel like doing the full route.

She jogged about a mile through the neighborhood, turned at the white railing off Duenda Road, and started down the narrow path that widened as it left the residential area and fed into the vast, beautiful open space of the San Dieguito River Valley. Depending on the time of day, sometimes she couldn't see another soul for miles in any direction. It was so peaceful out there, far away from the stresses of the city. So isolated. So still. And so deadly quiet.

But her nerves were on edge that evening as she ran along the sandy trail at dusk. She jerked to an abrupt halt, startled to see a snake off to the right. Once she realized it had no head and posed no danger, she continued heading toward the slate blue of the lake up ahead, hoping to find John in one of his usual haunts. He'd told her that he liked to sit on the benchlike boulders that were positioned along the trails, posted with informational placards about the Kumeyaay Indians and the natural wildlife habitat. Knowing his two favorites overlooked a waterfall and the lake, she kept her eyes peeled for discarded beer cans and cigarette butts. But she saw no sign of him.

This is the wrong spot, or he's been here and he's just not drinking beer or smoking cigarettes, she thought.

Cathy had spent nearly three decades managing her son's medical and psychological treatment, ferrying him to countless doctors and therapists who had prescribed more than a dozen medications. Starting at age four, John had begun with Ritalin for his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As he grew older, his behavioral problems became more complicated. As a teenager, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but he had experienced so many side effects to the drugs that he'd stopped taking them in high school. He had been on and off them ever since. Mostly off.

John also had a history of psychiatric hospitalizations, and by now, Cathy was very familiar with the danger signs that he was reaching a crisis point. In the last couple of months, he had totaled two cars, running one into a pole and the other into a cement barrier. So on February 8, she had driven him to the walk-in psychiatric clinic at the county hospital in Riverside, where both of them hoped he would be admitted as an inpatient. But even after John told the psychiatrist he might qualify as a "5150"—someone who is in danger of hurting himself or others—the doctor said he didn't think such treatment was necessary. He simply gave John some more pills and sent him on his way. Five days later, John went on a suicidal binge of methamphetamine and other illicit drugs, which landed him in the emergency room.

All of this made for a complicatedly close relationship between John and his mother. Things had escalated recently after he'd started using methamphetamine and increasing his drinking. The crazier he acted, the crazier Cathy's own emotional roller coaster became. If she didn't watch over him, she feared he would go right back to the same druggie friends he partied with during his nearly fatal binge, a pattern she'd seen over the past eighteen months. Or worse yet, he'd be successful and actually kill himself.

John had been "living" at his grandmother Linda Osborn's house in Riverside County since January, going back and forth to his mom's condo in Rancho Bernardo, a San Diego suburb, an hour south. But because Linda had also been admitted to the same hospital as John, Cathy decided on February 19 to take him home with her for a few days. Clearly, he was in no state of mind to be left to his own devices at his grandmother's, or in the care of his aunt Cynthia, who had her own emotional problems.

"It's time for you to get some more intense treatment," Cathy told him.

John agreed, saying he'd been trying to get help, but not succeeding. "I need you to help me because I can't seem to get it done on my own," he said.

He claimed that he'd already tried to find a mental-health or drug addiction facility in San Diego or Riverside County that would take him, but he would try again. As soon as he was feeling better on February 20, she gave him a list of phone numbers, then listened from the kitchen while he made the calls.

Cathy felt John's mental-health issues should take precedence over his substance abuse, but he was convinced that he needed to go to drug rehab first. In the end, though, it didn't matter because no place would take him. Either they had no room, or as soon as he told them he'd committed a felony and was a registered sex offender, they said they couldn't treat him.

With every rejection, John's anger mounted. He cussed and paced around her living room with frustration, and it was all Cathy could do to try to soothe him so he could make the next call.

"It's the same old thing," he groused. "I can't get any help."

"We're going to keep trying," Cathy said.

John made more calls the next couple of days with no luck, growing so discouraged that he finally gave up. She tried calling a few places herself, but they wouldn't talk to anyone but the adult who needed to be admitted.

Meanwhile, John was complaining about the side effects of his new medications: Effexor, an antidepressant, and Lamictal, an antiseizure medication for his mania. He said he felt mentally revved up and wasn't sleeping, which didn't surprise Cathy; he'd been pacing back and forth in her condo, flushed in the face, and taking her dog on walks around the lake for five hours at a time. Poor Hallie, a ten-year-old beagle-shepherd mix, was so exhausted that Cathy and her husband finally told John to give the pooch a rest.

Cathy decided not to push him too hard to make more calls because she'd already seen some improvement with the new meds. But on the evening of February 23, he showed her a rash on his stomach, chest and arms. Given his persistent manic symptoms, she agreed he should stop taking the pills until she could follow up with the doctor. After his grandmother was hospitalized again, she and John drove the two hours north to Los Angeles County to see her. They didn't get back until after one in the morning, on February 25, so Cathy never got to make that call.

While she was still out looking for her son on the trails that evening, he finally called her back, around five-thirty. "I'm on my way home," he said. "I should be there in a little bit."

John had spent five years in state prison after pleading guilty to committing forcible lewd acts and false imprisonment on a thirteen-year-old girl, who lived next door. Although he initially denied any wrongdoing, he finally admitted to his family that he'd hit the girl, but he still insisted he'd "never touched her sexually." Bolstered by a concurring recommendation from the psychiatrist who had originally diagnosed John as bipolar, Cathy pleaded with the court for mental-health treatment and probation. She'd always thought the girl next door was troubled and had an unconsummated crush on her son, so she believed his story. However, the request for probation was rejected, and even after he signed the plea deal, John's entire family believed that he'd been wrongfully prosecuted and inadequately represented by his attorney.

During John's time in prison, he had a psychotic break and was sent to a state mental facility. At the time, he told Cathy about some of the paranoid, homicidal and delusional thoughts that were going through his mind. But this time was different. This time, he'd been shielding her from the worst of it. This time, he didn't tell her about the compulsions that had been driving his recent behavior, so she had no clue that he was following through on his violent urges during those walks around the lake.

Although Cathy felt somewhat relieved to get John's call that night, she turned around and headed home, too anxious to finish her usual ninety-minute run. After taking a shower, she and her husband decided to wait on dinner until John got back. But as the minutes ticked by, Cathy was too upset to eat. When he still hadn't shown up by seven-thirty, she turned to her husband and broke into tears.

"This is killing me," she said. "I can't take this."

Where is he? she wondered. What is he doing out there?

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.


Excerpted from Lost Girls by Caitlin Rother Copyright © 2012 by Caitlin Rother. Excerpted by permission of Pinnacle Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother has written or co-authored ten books.   Her latest is Then No One Can Have Her.  Her previous titles include:  Naked Addiction, I'll Take Care of You, Lost Girls, Poisoned Love, Dead Reckoning, Body Parts, Twisted Triangle, Deadly Devotion, and My Life, Deleted. Rother, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, worked as an investigative reporter at daily newspapers for nineteen years before deciding to write books full-time. Her work has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. Her more than 100 TV/radio appearances include Nancy Grace, On the Record, the Jay Thomas Show, Snapped, and numerous shows on Investigation Discovery, E!, A&E, XM Radio, America at Night, C-SPAN and various affiliates. Rother also works as a book doctor, writing/research coach and consultant, and teaches narrative non-fiction writing and digital journalism at UCSD Extension and San Diego Writers, Ink.

Please visit her website at caitlinrother.com.

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Lost Girls 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
NightFlight56 More than 1 year ago
As a father who has lost a child, I cherish EVERY article ever written about him, both in newsprint and magazines. Whether you're uncomfortable with the subject (which you should be if you're even the slightest bit human), or concerned about the distribution of profit (be real here, it's not like this author is making millions on this book), every reader who values information and our constitutional right to read (or write) whatever we choose should recognize that the public needs to slapped in the face with this type of story regularly, because nothing else gets their attention. In my opinion, the family is certainly entitled to their grief, but inasmuch as they participated in TV interviews and so on, they cannot now demand silence on the part of others in trying to tell this tragic story. Since they chose NOT to provide the author with access, I don't see any way they can now claim she didn't tell the story right. The fact is, that every comment about this book, every person who buys or reads this work, is reminded of these two beautiful young women, and the horrible events surrounding their disappearances, and THAT's what the book is about. I see it as a memorial, and a warning to others to help prevent this from happening to YOUR daughters. Those of you who say the author should donate all proceeds to the family's private foundation, let me ask you: what event have YOU held to raise money and donate it?
koren56 More than 1 year ago
It is obvious that the posts here are an organized personal attack on the author and not true reviews. Some people have openly admitted they have not read the book. I have notified B&N of this and asked that only people who have actually read the book be allowed to post. If others agree with me please do the same.
DanDouglas More than 1 year ago
Can't believe all the negative reviews. The major criticism seems to be that the book brings up painful memories. Well, yeah, it does. Gardner was a monster and these were terrible crimes. The whole point of the "True Crime" genre is to shed light on the crimes. Caitlin Rother has done so brilliantly with detailed research. It's a chilling read and a look inside the mind of a killer. If that's not your cup of tea or you're too close to Amber and Chelsea to ever look at the story this way, then don't read the book. It's painful, but you can't fix the cracks that Gardner slipped though that left him at large and able to commit these acts if no one knows about them. Anyone who reads this book, should come away with the urge to shout "NEVER AGAIN!" from the rooftops. If the story and the book can lead to changes that keep just one more child safe from a monster like Gardner, then the book as done more good than harm.
johninpolitics More than 1 year ago
This is a fine piece of reporting on a very tough subject. Highly recommend it. FYI there is a campaign against it from some local haters who also want their hands on some money. Ignore them
MamaJill More than 1 year ago
The book was very well written, although it probably could have been better edited. It gave real insight into the mind of the monster who took these beautiful girls from us. I live in Rancho Bernardo, so I lived through that horrible tragedy with my neighbors. I'm shocked that so many people are trying to make this a political issue, when true crime has been around as a genre for ages. Ms. Rother obviously researched her subject quite well, and she very sensitively covered the issue. I learned quite a bit about the system that failed those girls, and came away with a little more knowledge than I had before I read it. This was a very compelling and fascinating read. Please don't turn it into a witch hunt...First Amendment anyone?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You are not commenting on the book or how well written the book was or wasn't. Most haven't even read the book. I agree that this is wrong and have also commented to B & N. Please only review books that you have persinally read. Giving books a bad review because you don't agree with weather or not the book should have been written is not what this is supposed to be for. Oh and FYI, the book was very well written and I think was very informative and tastefully done.
SherylAnn1 More than 1 year ago
Excellent, well-written book by Rother. Although I had heard bits and pieces about this case, I do not live in the San Diego area, and I had not heard any details about this murder's background. Rother does an excellent job of exposing his mental and criminal past, which should have been identified long before he was able to commit these reprehensible crimes. Rother is an award winning, highly respected, author, and this book is yet another fine example of her work as an author of true crime.
AmalieDS More than 1 year ago
I've actually finished the book (unlike many of the one star reviews asking folks not to buy it) and found it very informative. The book primarily is about John Gardner, and does not air "dirty laundry" about the victims' families. Everything which pertains to the victims is done in a complimentary manner, and appears to be all sourced from information which had already been released. I've read every book written by Ann Rule, and this author has a similar style. I hope she keeps them coming! I have to question the motives about the supposed grief over the book and the demands to donate the proceeds to charity...it's preposterous. There are posters on the Chelsea Light Facebook page whining because the reviews have gone up to 2 stars instead of 1 and they are encouraging folks to come here and give the author a bad review. Is this the values that Chelsea's Light Foundation wants to encourage? This author, as do all published authors, truly has a right to earn a living. Just like all the reporters that the families did talk to....they have a right and they did indeed make money from the case..... and they were many. I think my future donations will go to the Tariq Hamissa foundation as there is way too much hate and hypocrisy associated with this one.
ElfieLM More than 1 year ago
Sgt. Friday would be pleased with "Just the facts, Ma'am." No great revelations, but a steady and accurate account of the broken legal and medical bureaucracy that allowed this ticking time bomb to explode in public and ruin families and their lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read all of the reviews before buying this book and decided to judge for myself. I am so glad i did! This book is very well written and a definite page-turner. Of course the story is tragic and as a mother my heart is broken for all parents and families involved, but the author is not the criminal here! Caitlin rother wrote an "all sides point of view" account, which i am sure was very difficult considering all sides did not want their side told. The author wrote a heartfelt book about a broken system, families and communities torn apart, and the healing that can only come with justice being served. We cannot make changes in our justice system without knowledge of what went wrong. I am so sorry for the loss of chelsea and amber and all those who read this book will forever carry a special place for these precios girls in their heart. Don't let the ridiculous negative reviews turn you away from this incredible read. Sincerely, angie downs
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I support the authors right to create the book, as I do an individual's right to purchase it or not. To so obviously try to spoil sales will only spur them. I purchased it to see for myself, as will others. As far as the genre goes, this book is on par with the rest.
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
Page turning sad, sad story. The story of dysfunctional families, drug abuse, bipolar, incest, and murder. We find families failing one another, hospitals and Government Agencies not helping or doing their jobs. Laws that are in place and not enforced, people either not doing their jobs, or over worked to the point they are unable to comply. John Albert Garner, was born with problems, his Mom became a psychiatric nurse in order to support and help her son. Throughout the book you see numerous times she tried and tried to help him. She supported him and hard a hard time believing the monster her son had become. She was also not responsible for his drug abuse, but she should have told authorities about some of her suspicions. Unfortunately the system failed and two young girls lost their lives because of this. Parents of these girls and politicians have now passed new laws to help prevent another tragedy....if they are enforced! Some have already been postponed. Don't miss this insight into the mind of a killer, and what helped make him who he is. I received this book from Pump Your Book Virtual Tours, and the Publisher Kensington Books, and was not required to give a positive review.
ody More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, being a True Crime fan of long standing. I had heard of these two cases, of course, but never heard how they turned out...who was caught, etc. So I was fascinated to finally hear the real ending in detail.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While the book didn't keep me on the "edge of my seat", it was still a pretty good read. Chelsea and Amber were beautiful and, young, with their whole lives ahead of them. John Gardner was a psychopath, misfit, drug addict, pedophile with a bad temper. Wherether the System failed him or his family - the fact remains the same - he's a predator and a killer and deserves no mercy. I read some of the reviews from others who seem angry that the author wrote the book without the "blessings" from the families. Since when does public knowledge need a blessing? I think the book is a cautionary tale - one that informs us of what evil really is out there. Did Chelsea have the right to jog in a park and Amber have the right to walk to school? Absolutely! But this book warns that that Boogeyman does exist and he's out there - so be careful! True crime readers will enjoy this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was questioning whether to buy the book or not because of the negative publicity by one of the mothers of JAG's victims. But I realized that if we shut out every ounce of pain in the world whether it is our own pain or the pain of others, that we are shutting down to hope as well as forgiveness and understanding. This book was a great read, giving us all some insight to the mind of a killer as well as those who knew him best. The author was compassionate about not delving too deep into the gruesome details of the crimes, keeping to what was released through the media as well as allowing the story to be told without adding personal opinion. The author did a great job, and all the negative publicity is unneccessary and is only fueling its sales. READ THE BOOK!!
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
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. Pulitzer-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. Caitlin Rother is one of the best at writing True Crime stories! Her books grab you and hold on tight. Chelsea King would have been 20 years old this year, she and I share a birthday, though I am much older. I know her family does not support this book but it does draw worldwide attention to a very flawed criminal and mental health system. It also shines a light on Chelsea's Law and awakens parents everywhere to a very real problem. Every state should have similar legislation. We must protect out children in every way possible. The events of this story rocked California and people around the nation to their core. Many have hit the review sites telling us not to buy this book. How are we supposed to learn about these predators if there aren't books like this? Rother gives us an in depth study into one monster's life, much more than we would ever get from a basic news article. I do not believe she wrote the book to hurt the victims. This is what she does, she is a excellent true crime storyteller. She researches and investigates thoroughly and makes this tragic story to a level we can all understand. I believe she has presented accurate information in an extremely well written tome. She delves into Gardner's past for clues for his behavior but in no way condones anything he did. Living in the Midwest this story was not front and center of my news watching or reading at the time like it was for those who live in California. Rother gives us a clear and concise account of the story. People reading this story may have their eyes opened to be aware of people's behavior around them. This book shows us the people around the predator are usually blind to things that should raise red flags about an individual. It is hard for a parent or sibling to believe a member of their own family could commit such heinous acts. After reading a story like this a neighbor or co-worker may see behavior that needs to be brought to the attention of law enforcement. They may be able to act in advance and save a child. Laws that have been enacted to protect children may be more well known and a predator living too close to a school or park may be identified. I understand the family's hurt in reliving this story but if one child is saved because we are now more aware after reading this book, isn't it worth it?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First and foremost my heartstrings and prayers go out to the families and friends of these of these two amazing young women. Growing up in Escondido and living in Temecula presently I was able to see in my mind as I read exactly where the author was writing about, I have enjoyed meals at Hernandez Hideway where they took John Gardner into custody. This was a good true crime read and detailed very well John's childhood years and the unconditional love, support and medical assistance his mother so desperately tried to obtain for him. The system not only horribly failed this "man" but Chelsea and Amber and there loved ones as well. Rest in Peace Ladies and may your angelic spirits grace this world.
LHedgpeth More than 1 year ago
Being that these crimes happened only a few years back and in my current backyard, and knowing that Caitlin Rother writes well researched and written books, I anticipated reading Lost Girls. The book left a sad, bitter and frustrated taste in my mouth. Author Caitlin Rother supplied stellar investigative writing. She wrote with so much description that she brought victims Amber and Chelsea to life on the pages. They came across much more vividly than their killer, which is a wonderful change to many true crime books where the killer is the so-called star of the show. Perhaps it helps that Gardner’s victim count was thankfully low or perhaps it speaks of Ms. Rother’s desire to not glorify the crimes. I have found Ms. Rother’s other true crime works to be equally well balanced and I applaud her efforts. Even with her desire not to delve into unnecessary detail about the atrocities Amber and Chelsea suffered, the crimes were obviously horrendous. Horrendous in what was emotionally and physically done to the young girls but also in how the crimes themselves tore away the fabric of safety that permeated the bedroom communities where the girls lived and from where they were abducted. Once that layer of security has been ripped away it’s hard to replace and Gardner is guilty of murdering the innocence present in the northern San Diego area. Ms. Rother did a fantastic job on Gardner’s background and formative years. I was alternately stunned, saddened and angered by the many abuses and red flags that were present in his childhood and adolescence that were either ignored or glossed over by family members and health professionals. I hate to use the term “perfect storm” but Gardner’s upbringing and environment seemed to me to be a perfect storm for creating a monster. Gardner’s mother gave me the most aggravation. I can understand defending your child but this mother seemed to be in denial and appears to continue to be in denial. I will stop short of calling her an enabler; after all, she didn’t cause her son to be a killer and no parent deserves the grief of knowing your child has taken the lives of others but I have no tolerance for excuse making and she thoroughly put me off through the course of the book. I was also shocked at how the healthcare system, particularly the mental healthcare system, appeared to fail Gardner. Time and again he was proven to have problems. Time and again it was clear he needed intervention, he needed medication, he needed professional help. Even when he himself asked for it, it was denied. Why? I can’t help but wonder if the proper help was given, would Amber Dubois and Chelsea King be alive today? Most enlightening and hair raising is the section at the end of the book, where Ms. Rother had an interview with Gardner. This may be the truest Gardner seen, other than that monster seen by Amber and Chelsea, his victims who survived and that brief flash of rage in the courtroom. I felt for the families of the girls, neither of whom wanted this book published and understandably so but I think it’s an insightful look into a cruel and twisted mind and a real lesson for us as a whole. I felt extended grief for Amber Dubois’ family, who didn’t learn about her fate for over a year and for whose search for their loved one didn’t garner as much media attention as the search for Chelsea King would a year later. I am filled with sadness for both of these young girls who had so much to offer. Both of them could have, and likely would have, made a difference in this world and Gardner deprived society of them. Their lives were just beginning and he decided to snuff them out, for his own demented and selfish reasons. Knowing he is in prison, where he will remain for the rest of his life, is a small comfort. For fans of true crime, I would recommend Lost Girls. It’s not an easy read and while the pages will go quickly, it can easily weigh you down. With the writing so well done and facts not previously publicly known (due to the lack of a trial) being shared, Lost Girls is a must-read and should be required reading for any criminal justice or psychology student. Very well done, Ms. Rother. Your work is thought provoking and yet very respectful. ©Psychotic State Book Reviews, 2012
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing book
LeslieWade More than 1 year ago
I just ordered the book and have yet to read it, but I have known the author professionally and personally for many years. I'm disheartened by the modern day witch hunt being perpetrated by the misguided supporters of the victims' families. While I sympathize with the families, this story has been told repeatedly in the press and will be told again in other books. It was a horrific public event that left everyone in San Diego wondering how this could happen. Ms. Rother attempts to explain the story in a work that finally goes beyond the sound bite. I look forward to reading it and to writing a more informed review. For now, I felt compelled to balance the one star reviews of the witch hunters who have posted here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this writers books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this book was very eloquently written. There's no denying that Gardner is a monster. My heart goes out to those girls. I can't see why the girls parents got so upset with the author. Whether she wrote this book or someone else did the story would have been told. I respect this author because she used a lot of discretion in the book. She never wrote anything that was overboard. Its such a heartbreak that will never be forgotten. It brings up a lot of emotions. All I can say is the book was written wonderfully despite the hard story. Its never easy to write about two beautiful girls who were taken to early. It saddens me to the core still. The book was written respectfully. The author respected the parents and the third victims choice of not talking as well. Don't listen to the bad reviews. I'm a neutral party and the book is highly acclaimed by a sensitive writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
enjoyed reading this...
MarienicollBetaIN More than 1 year ago
This book makes a person have so many emotions. Your heart goes out to everyone, the families, friends, even those who didnt know these 2 beautiful teenagers, who I know would have made something of their lives and cherished life itself. I do feel sorry for John's family too.. We must remember even when we raise our children, we can't always watch and see what they do every second of the day. I think The author proved that even when you want to hide something there is always away to get someone to tell what they don;t want to talk about, even if it just takes one kind word, you can get people to open up. I enjoyed this book enormously. I hope maybe in another 20 yrs Caitlin, can go back and interview them all to see where they are in their lives.
GETadd More than 1 year ago
As the father of a pretty daughter as well of a mentally ill son, I can relate to the subject of Ms. Rother's book very intensly, My children are grown up now, but that does not deminish my concern for them and their welfare. I can still remember my anxiety, waiting for them to get home from school. My daughter, when she was little was constantly talking to people we didn't know, When we tried to caution her about talking to strangers, her response was, "What's a stranger?" We told her, "A stranger is anyone we don't know." She replied,"Well when I say,'Hi, I'm Carrie, and they say, 'Hi,' and tell me their names, they're not strangers any more!" or words to that effect! We had to constantly remind her that not everyone she meets will be her friend, and to be careful about whom she spoke to and about letting anyone touch her inappropriately.Then, too, I can empathize with the parents of the killer, because, our son is mentally ill, and there, but for the grace of God, go I!