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The Charger Bulletin

Florida’s Uncovered Racist Past Following Trayvon Murder

by Vanessa Estime | April 18, 2012

By now, the unfortunate murder of Trayvon Martin by his assailant George Zimmerman has made headlines on every local and major media outlet. The tragic story – 17 year old African American Trayvon Martin was gunned down by White Hispanic George Zimmerman during the early evening near a gated community on February 26, 2012 – has gripped the nation and fuelled responses from lay people to professional athletes, politicians, and civil rights leaders.

Every day, new facts surrounding the case surface in news reports including this interesting revelation – racial tension has plagued the town of Sanford, Florida since the days of Jackie Robinson. Robinson was forced to leave the town twice by “100 angry locals” while training with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946. Currently, there is no mention anywhere in Sanford of the baseball legend’s stay. The Associated Press quoted Chris Lamb, an author, as saying, “A specter of Jackie Robinson haunts the city of 53,000 people to his day. People want to forget it, and it shouldn’t be forgotten.”

66 years later after Jackie Robinson’s encounter with Sanford, the death of Trayvon Martin has reawakened the racial tension. Since his death, many people spoke out against the case and marched for “justice for Trayvon” all over the country. While prosecutors initially declined to charge Zimmerman for the crime, and his lawyers said that the case should not be looked at through a racial lens, civil rights leaders such as the Reverend Al Sharpton demanded justice. “We’ve come from the plantation, from the outhouse to the White House. You can’t shoot our children no more.”

Last month, the NAACP held town hall meetings in Sanford where African American residents voiced their opinion on police conduct. The details compiled by the organization will be sent to the Department of Justice to begin a possible investigation on police misconduct. At the same time, many people are still convinced that Sanford is “Florida’s Friendly City.”

Albeit the troubling nature of the whole incident, there is a positive seen from it, Velma Williams, the only African American on Sanford’s city commission, said “despite this tragedy, some food is going to come out of it. This subject which no one wants to talk about – race relations – will occur. We’re going to have to get together.”

Murder Mystery Dinner

by Samantha Shinn | October 6, 2010

The Murder Mystery Dinner was a very successful and fun event set up for family day, and it was a sold out event with 150 people in attendance. The event was hosted in the Alumni Lounge from 6:00 -7:30 p.m. All of the guests pledged to be deputy detectives to find out who murdered the famous producer, Mr. Willy Wonder.

The game was a Chester Hadlyme Mystery and just one of the many plots available. This plot, however, was called “Auditions are Murder” and the famous producer conducting the auditions turned up to be the one murdered. The characters who were auditioning are, of course, the three suspects. There was Gary Glamour, who was a famous star in the 80’s; everyone knows that he will not get his part because of his bad acting. Then, there was Lee Montressore, who is an internationally known actress/model and does not need audition for the audience because Mr. Wonder said that she auditioned enough the night previously. Finally, there is Tapioca Puddingworth, who is Mr. Wonder’s current girlfriend and is insanely possessive of him. It is not expected for their relationship to last.

The plot thickens when the audience finds out that Mr. Willy Wonder, not only has appeared to have dropped dead, but that his cause of death was actually cyanide poisoning. As new clues and rumors begin to circulate through the room, it becomes obvious that Gary might have an ulterior motive for Mr. Wonder death; his friend, also a producer, wants to take over Mr. Wonder’s production company and has promised Gary a role for his help. However, Tapioca might also have a motive to inflict harm on Mr. Wonder, because one of the rumors going around was that Lee was seen leaving the Motel 7 earlier that morning, the one where Mr. Wonder was staying. This ,of course, caused Tapioca to just lost it. Gary claimed she was emotionally unstable; this newly revealed information must have pushed her over the edge.

The dinner was very good too. They served chicken piccata, poppy seed rolls, potato wedges, salad, cookies, and brownies, all of which was very delicious. Gary especially loved the rolls. The table decorations were also very nice, with curled ribbon in the middle and programs and pencils circling the center.

This was a very nice event put on, and everyone there enjoyed themselves, especially since the characters were very entertaining. The winner of the mystery received her own game to play at home, another murder mystery game signed by all of the actors. A thank you goes out to everyone who made this fun night possible.

AZ escapees, companion charged with murder in NM

by The Associated Press | August 25, 2010

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Two escaped convicts from Arizona and a woman who accompanied them were charged with murder and carjacking Monday in the deaths of an Oklahoma couple who authorities said were targeted because of their camping trailer.

Federal prosecutors in New Mexico filed murder and carjacking charges against John McCluskey, 45; Tracy Province, 42; and their alleged accomplice, Casslyn Welch, 44.
They’re accused in the deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla.

Authorities said the three fugitives saw the couple at a rest area along Interstate 40 in eastern New Mexico Aug. 2, three days after the men escaped from the Arizona State Prison in Kingman. An arrest warrant says the three were tired of traveling and sleeping in a car they stole in Flagstaff, Ariz., and decided “it would be a good idea to target someone driving a camper or trailer.”

Prosecutors say McCluskey shot and killed the couple inside their travel trailer. The three fugitives drove the truck and trailer to a remote area of New Mexico’s Guadalupe County, where they unhitched, burned and abandoned the trailer, authorities said.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said at a news conference Monday that the Haases were traveling to Pagosa Springs, Colo., for a camping trip. He described them as “two people on vacation who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

McCluskey and Welch, who is his cousin and fiancee, were captured at a Forest Service campground near Springerville, Ariz., last week. Province was arrested Aug. 8 in Wyoming and has been returned to Arizona.

Gonzales said efforts were under way to extradite all three to New Mexico.

Asked if New Mexico would become the first place to prosecute the three for their crime spree because it is the location of the most serious charges, Gonzales said, “That’s certainly our position.”

He cautioned, however, that the process takes time, and he had no estimate when the three would be brought to New Mexico.

The trio also face charges in Arizona including kidnapping, armed robbery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. They are accused of hijacking a tractor-trailer shortly after the escape.

A third escaped convict, Daniel Renwick, split up from the rest of the group and was arrested two days after the jailbreak in Rifle, Colo.

Mo. father convicted of murder in incest case

by Liz De La Torre | April 20, 2010

From The Associated Press

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. – A jury on Tuesday convicted a 47-year-old man of raping his daughter and murdering one of the four children he fathered with her by not seeking medical treatment for the sick boy before he died.

The man, who is not being named by The Associated Press to protect the identity of his daughter, a sexual abuse victim, sat motionless as the verdicts were read. He was found guilty of all the charges against him, including second-degree murder, second-degree rape, two counts of incest and two counts of abandonment of a corpse.

The Cass County jury, which took just 2 1/2 hours to render its verdicts, later recommended he receive the maximum sentence for each of the counts, including life in prison for the murder charge. His sentencing is scheduled for June 7, and the judge does not have to abide by the jury’s recommendations.

Before the jury’s sentencing recommendations were read, the 20-year-old daughter the man abused tearfully read a statement to the court.

“(The defendant) made me become a mother too soon and in a way I didn’t want to be,” she said, her sobs resonating through the courtroom.

She testified during the three-day trial that her father first had sex with her when she was 5 years old. She said she gave birth to her first child, a daughter, at age 14. The girl died four months later after falling off a couch in the recreational vehicle the family lived in.

Two years later she had a son — the only one of her children who survived. A year later, she had another son, but he died after becoming ill and not receiving medical attention.

His body and that of the victim’s fourth child, a daughter who was stillborn, were found in January 2009 in coolers on a rural Harrisonville property where the family — the defendant, the victim, her mother and three sisters — lived in their RV.

Defense attorney Janeal Matheson told jurors that her client was a hardworking man who deserved leniency.

“This argument is probably the hardest argument a defense attorney has to give,” Matheson said.

During closing arguments, Matheson said the state hadn’t proven that her client was the victim’s biological father. She also argued that the state hadn’t proven the third child died of an illness, and hypothesized that he could have died of sudden infant death syndrome instead.

The defendant’s uncle, who was hooked to an oxygen tank and had to be helped into the courtroom, told jurors as he gasped for air that he and his wife drove two hours to speak in favor of him because nobody else was doing so.

“I look around this courtroom and I can’t see nobody on his side,” the uncle said. “Nobody.”

Sisters of the abuse victim declined to speak to reporters after Tuesday’s proceedings. But the defendant’s niece, Tammy Allison, 31, said family members were pleased with the verdicts.

“Everybody is happy, but in the same sense, everybody has mixed emotions,” Allison told The Associated Press. “He is their father. He is my uncle. It hurts.”

She said it was hard to watch the victim on the witness stand because of how much she struggled with memories of events she had been working for more than a year to overcome.

“After seeing her, the episodes she had, it was like all of it was coming back,” Allison said. “She has worked so hard to get through this.”

Cass County prosecutor Teresa Hensley praised the abuse victim’s courage and said she has matured a lot over the past year. The victim is scheduled to graduate from high school in May, has a job and will be going to the prom, Hensley said.

“She is a most incredible young woman,” she said. “She is truly a survivor.”

Sex offender pleads guilty to murdering 2 teens

by Liz De La Torre | April 16, 2010

From The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO – Sex offender John Albert Gardner pleaded guilty Friday to murdering two teenage girls in San Diego County after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Gardner, 31, faces life in prison without parole for killing 14-year-old Amber Dubois and 17-year-old Chelsea King.

Gardner, wearing a dark blue jail jumpsuit with his shackled arms hanging at his sides, said nothing but “yes” repeatedly as the judge asked him for his pleas.

Amber vanished in February 2009, and the investigation produced few solid leads until Chelsea disappeared Feb. 25 during an afternoon run in a San Diego park about 10 miles south of the site where Amber vanished.

Gardner was arrested three days after Chelsea disappeared. He initially pleaded not guilty in her killing.

In a surprising turn, Gardner admitted Friday to kidnapping, raping and stabbing Amber. He also admitted dragging Chelsea to a remote area where he raped, strangled and buried her.

Sentencing was set for June 1.

Prosecutor Kristen Spieler told the judge the victims’ families agreed to the plea agreement. She was not immediately available for comment after the hearing.

Chelsea’s body was discovered March 2 in a shallow lakeside grave after a massive search. Prosecutors said Gardner was linked to the crime by DNA found on Chelsea’s clothing.

Amber’s bones were discovered March 6 in a rugged, remote area north of San Diego. She vanished with a $200 check to purchase a lamb she was going to raise for Future Farmers of America. The check was never cashed.

Escondido police identified Gardner as a suspect in Amber’s death but have been silent on what led them to her remains.

Gardner served five years in prison after pleading guilty in 2000 to molesting a 13-year-old neighbor girl. Records show he later violated parole by moving too close to a school but was allowed to remain free.

Gardner’s history of parole violations has led to calls to strengthen California’s already stringent laws on sex predators.

Chelsea’s parents, Brent and Kelly King, have traveled to Sacramento to announce the introduction of “Chelsea’s Law,” which would send some child molesters to prison for life after a first conviction and monitor others with tracking technology until they die.

White Supremacist Murder Rocks South Africa

by Erin Ennis | April 7, 2010

The mother of a 15 year old murder suspect said Monday that her son struck a notorious white supremacist leader after the farmer refused to pay him, a slaying that heightens racial tensions as South Africa prepares to host the World Cup. Ewing Terreblanche, 69, was the leader of the far-right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging movement. She said she spoke to the teenager at Ventersdorp police station on Saturday after he turned himself in. The boy was not alone, and his 28 year old accomplice had also turned himself in.  The suspects continue to remain anonymous, due to a law in South Africa that refuses to identify accused minors without the signature of a judge. Terreblanche’s movement has threatened to march on the police station if the names are not released.

Police officers are attempting to appear composed in interviews due to the heavy atmosphere surrounding South Africa. As the first African Nation to host the World Cup, only 10 weeks away, police officials hope to resolve the issue before the games enter the country.

While the killing is being considered by the mother of the accused to be minimal at best, the authorities in South Africa feel otherwise. Yes, the dispute was over money payments and striking someone with an apparent iron rod is considered normal, the slaying of Terreblanche comes after brutal and long racially charged fighting in South Africa. The newly democratic and urban guerilla warfare based African National Congress only recently took control, and the racially driven white regime, of which Terreblanche was a leader, continue to drive up violence. Terreblanche’s death can only spell disaster amongst the races in South Africa. Secretary General Andre Visagie considers the death an “act of war by blacks against whites” and warns visiting nations of impending danger.

PA Boy Receives Adult Trial for Murder

by Vanessa Estime | April 7, 2010

Last year, then eleven years old, Jordan Brown was blamed for the deaths of his father’s pregnant fiancée and an unborn fetus while she was lying in bed. Now, the twelve year old will be tried in an adult court for criminal homicide, Judge Dominick Motto decided on Monday, Mar. 29. He was reported as saying, “This offense was an execution-style killing of a defenseless pregnant young mother. A more horrific crime is difficult to imagine.”

Last year, then eleven years old, Jordan Brown was blamed for the deaths of his father’s pregnant fiancée and an unborn fetus while she was lying in bed. Now, the twelve year old will be tried in an adult court for criminal homicide,

Brown could be convicted of anything from involuntary manslaughter to first degree murder under Pennsylvania law for using a shotgun and killing twenty-six year old Kenzie Marie Houk and the unborn male fetus. The eight month old fetus died as a result of a lack of oxygen. The murder occurred on Feb. 20, 2009 in the family’s farmhouse in New Galilee, a small town in western Pennsylvania.

Prosecutors have decided to go after a conviction of first degree murder, which could lead Brown to spend the rest of his life in prison. President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, Cynthia Orr, commented that she has never encountered someone as young as Brown being indicted with fetal homicide. Prosecutors have theorized that Brown was jealous of the unborn child and Houk, and police have come to the conclusion that he hid his youth-model 20-gauge shotgun with a blanket as he walked into the bedroom. Later, it was discovered that Brown threw the shell casing on a trail on the way to the school bus.

Brown’s defense lawyers have contested that the case would be handled best in juvenile court. That way, he could be able to obtain treatment and imprisonment designed specifically for young offenders. The attorneys had to convince Judge Motto that Brown would respond better to therapy in a juvenile center rather than being tried as an adult. The judge dismissed the claim, saying that the evidence presented by the defense psychologist, Kirk Heilbrun, was not convincing enough. Heilbrun claimed that Brown was a low-risk offender but Motto focused on the prosecution’s discovery: that Brown minimized the crime, tried to pass the blame, and even at one point, denied it altogether.

Houk’s mother questioned why there would be debate. “There was no reason for uncertainty in our eyes. We’re pleased.”

Man convicted in slaying of Broncos cornerback

by Liz De La Torre | March 11, 2010

From The Associated Press

DENVER – Suspected gang member Willie Clark was found guilty of murder Thursday in the drive-by shooting death of Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams after a New Year’s Eve outing three years ago.

Clark showed no emotion as the verdict was read, but leaned back and looked at the ceiling once the jury was dismissed. He gave a small smile to relatives before he was taken from the courtroom in handcuffs.

He faces life in prison at his April 30 sentencing hearing.

Williams’ mother, Rosalind, wept as she left the courtroom.

“We’ll never know what happened that night,” she said later. “This is a start, to clean up the streets here and hopefully everywhere else.”

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen issued a statement saying, “After three long years, it is very gratifying to see closure brought to this case.”

There was no immediate word on a possible appeal, but defense attorney Darren Cantor told three sobbing people in the courtroom, “Try to breathe, OK? That’s what appeals are for.”

Cantor told reporters that Clark’s family was upset and had no comment.

The jury deliberated for a day and a half after an 11-day trial, and convicted Clark on all 21 counts he faced, including murder for Williams’ death and attempted murder for the 16 others who were in a Hummer stretch limo with Williams.

Court officials said jurors didn’t want to comment on the verdict.

Security was tight throughout the trial, and 13 armed sheriff’s deputies stood in the courtroom as the verdict was read.

Clark declined to testify, citing threats to himself and his family. Cantor said gang members had threatened to turn Clark into “Swiss cheese” if he said anything in court.

Williams was killed at about 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day 2007. Prosecutors said Clark fired the fatal shots from an SUV that pulled up beside the rented limo.

“It was this man, who indiscriminately, with universal maliciousness … took it upon himself to unload his .40-caliber handgun into that limousine full of innocent people,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Timothy Twining said in his closing argument.

Clark was angry over an altercation involving friends of Williams and friends of Clark that occurred in a nightclub just before the shooting, prosecutors said. A member of Williams’ group had sprayed champagne on New Year’s partiers.

Defense attorney Abraham Hutt said Clark wasn’t even in the SUV during the shooting.

“This is what this is about: Willie Clark is a scapegoat,” Hutt told jurors.

Hutt tried to undercut the credibility of five prosecution witnesses who got shorter prison time in other cases in exchange for testifying. Hutt said the five saw their sentences reduced by a combined 188 years.

Hutt said the prosecution’s star witness, Daniel “Ponytail” Harris, faced a life sentence for a drug charge but will be released within two years. Harris testified that he saw Clark fire the shots.

Williams was 24 and in his second season with the Broncos. He was already a starter and had four interceptions that season, second-best on the team. He was tied for third in tackles with 86.

He was a native of Fort Worth, Texas, and was a star cornerback at O.D. Wyatt High School there. He played at Oklahoma State, where he was a 2003 All-Big 12 selection.

The Broncos made him their second-round pick, 56th overall, in the 2005 draft.

In December, Williams had said he wanted to return to Fort Worth in the 2007 offseason to talk to kids about staying out of gangs.

Boyfriend: ‘Jihad Jane’ suspect wasn’t religious

by Liz De La Torre | March 10, 2010

From The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA – The self-dubbed “Jihad Jane” who thought her blond, all-American profile would help mask her plan to kill a Swedish cartoonist is a rare case of a U.S. woman inciting foreign terrorism and shows the latest evolution of the global threat, authorities say.

The suburban Philadelphia woman, Colleen R. LaRose, was accused in Tuesday’s indictment of trying to recruit jihadist fighters, and pledging to murder the artist, marry a terrorism suspect so he could move to Europe and martyr herself if necessary.

Her boyfriend of five years said LaRose had never hinted at Muslim leanings or attended religious services of any kind. Kurt Gorman, 47, of Pennsburg, said that he met LaRose in Texas and that nothing seemed amiss until she moved out of their apartment without warning in August.

“I came home and she was gone. It doesn’t make any sense,” he said Wednesday outside his small business in nearby Quakertown. “She was a good-hearted person.”

The indictment paints a picture of a woman whose devotion to the cause grew as she prowled the Internet and conversed with a loose band of terrorist suspects in Europe and South Asia. She eventually agreed to try killing Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had angered Muslims by depicting the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog, according to a U.S. official who wasn’t authorized to discuss details of the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

LaRose is “one of only a few such cases nationwide in which females have been charged with terrorism violations,” said U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd.

LaRose, 46, of Pennsburg but with close ties to south Texas, has been held without bail since her Oct. 15 arrest in Philadelphia.

Authorities said the case shows how terrorist groups are looking to recruit Americans to carry out their goals.

“Today’s indictment, which alleges that a woman from suburban America agreed to carry out murder overseas and to provide material support to terrorists, underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face,” said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.

LaRose had targeted Vilks and had online discussions about her plans with at least one of several suspects apprehended over that plot Tuesday in Ireland, according to the U.S. official.

Irish police said Wednesday those arrested were two Algerians, two Libyans, a Palestinian, a Croatian and an American woman married to one of the Algerian suspects. They were not identified by name.

A U.S. Department of Justice spokesman wouldn’t confirm the case is related to Vilks. At least three Swedish newspapers published the Muhammad cartoon Wednesday, arguing that it had news value or was a free-speech symbol.

The indictment charges that LaRose, who also used the name Fatima LaRose online, agreed to try killing the target on orders from the unnamed terrorists she met online, and traveled to Europe in August to do so.

LaRose indicated in her online conversations that she thought her blond hair and blue eyes would help her move freely in Sweden to carry out the attack, the indictment said.

LaRose as a convert to Islam who actively recruited others, including at least one unidentified American, and her online messages expressed her willingness to become a martyr and her impatience to take action, according to the indictment and the U.S. official.

Killing the target would be her goal “till I achieve it or die trying,” she wrote a south Asian suspect in March 2009, according to the indictment. Her federal public defender, Mark T. Wilson, declined to comment Tuesday.

“I’m glad she didn’t kill me,” Vilks told The Associated Press on Wednesday, saying the suspects appeared to be “low-tech.” He said he has built defense systems in his home to thwart would-be terrorists, including a safe room and electrified barbed wire.

U.S. Attorney Michael Levy said the indictment doesn’t link LaRose to any organized terror groups.

In recent years, the only other women charged in the U.S. with terror violations were lawyer Lynne Stewart, convicted of helping imprisoned blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman communicate with his followers, and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist found guilty of shooting at U.S. personnel in Afghanistan while yelling, “Death to Americans!”

But neither case involved the kind of plotting attributed to LaRose — a woman charged with trying to foment a terror conspiracy to kill someone overseas.

Stewart has insisted she is “not a traitor,” while Siddiqui has accused U.S. authorities of lying about her.

LaRose called herself JihadJane in a YouTube video in which she said she was “desperate to do something somehow to help” ease the suffering of Muslims, the indictment said. According to the 11-page document, she agreed to obtain residency in a European country and marry one of the terrorists to enable him to live there.

She moved to Europe in August with Gorman’s stolen passport and intended to give it to one of her “brothers,” the indictment said. She hoped to “live and train with jihadists and to find and kill” the targeted artist, it said.

LaRose also agreed to provide financial help to her coconspirators in Asia and Europe, the indictment charged.

LaRose had an initial court appearance on Oct. 16 but didn’t enter a plea. No further court dates have been set.

Police: Man eyed in 2nd teen murder investigation

by Liz De La Torre | March 8, 2010

From The Associated Press

ESCONDIDO, Calif. – A registered sex offender charged with murdering a teen girl last month is a focus of the investigation into the death of a 14-year-old girl whose remains were found more than a year after she disappeared near her school, police said Monday.

Police said they are eyeing John Albert Gardner III in the death of Amber Dubois, whose bones were found Saturday in a remote area of the Pala Indian Reservation.

A police statement did not elaborate on the investigation and only said the scene was still being processed. Police Lt. Craig Carter did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking further details.

FBI teams worked under rainy skies during their search of the mountainous area of dense shrubs and rocks.

Gardner, 30, pleaded not guilty last week to murdering and raping or attempting to rape 17-year-old Chelsea King of Poway and attempting to rape another woman in December in the same park where King disappeared.

His public defender, Michael Popkins, did not respond to a phone message.

Gardner was expected to make his second court appearance Tuesday in the potential death penalty case.

Police have not revealed how they learned the location of Amber’s remains, saying it was part of the ongoing investigation. Amber’s mother, Carrie McGonigle, also declined to say what led authorities to the remains.

However, she said she was grateful for the sense of closure after the long hunt for her daughter.

“I’m managing,” McGonigle said in a brief interview. “It was a roller coaster the last year and now we have closure, which is more than a lot of parents have.”

Amber disappeared Feb. 13, 2009 near Escondido High School, about 10 miles north of the site where King vanished Feb. 25. A body presumed to be Chelsea was found March 2 in a shallow, lakeside grave, but authorities have said they would not make an official identification until Gardner’s preliminary hearing.

Like Chelsea’s parents, McGonigle said she planned to become active in efforts to prevent attacks on other children. She said she was busy preparing for a candlelight vigil for her daughter Monday night.

Brent and Kelly King shared their grief with Amber’s family.

“We have spoken with the Dubois family and our hearts go out to them in this time of deep sadness,” the Kings said in a statement. “We share their indescribable grief for the loss of Amber’s precious young life.”

Friends and classmates put candles, cards, flowers and balloons outside Escondido High School, near the spot where Amber was last seen at 7:10 a.m. that February morning. The school held a moment of silence in her memory. Crisis counselors were on hand to help students deal with their grief.

“They’ll be here as long as it takes to make sure we get through this time,” Principal Rich Watkins said.

Jeff Fidel skipped work as an investment adviser to stay home with his daughter Jade, who was Amber’s best friend. Jade Fidel was watching television Sunday when Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher announced Amber’s remains were positively identified through dental records.

“All I heard was a blood-curdling scream,” Jeff Fidel recalled. “My wife and I came running in … It’s been rough.”

Amber, a member of Future Farmers of America, had left home with a $200 check to buy a lamb. It was never cashed, fueling suspicion of foul play.

Paul Levikow, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said the brief hearing Tuesday would address procedural issues and could involve delaying the preliminary hearing now set for March 19. He declined to comment on the investigation into Amber’s death.

Gardner was registered as a sex offender in Escondido, a north San Diego suburb, from January 2008 to January 2010, with some gaps, police said.

He served five years of a six-year prison term for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor in San Diego in 2000. He completed parole in September 2008.

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