Taken: The Amber Dubois story
Amber Dubois (Family photo)
Thirteen months after Amber Dubois disappeared, Escondico police deliver the news her parents have been dreading.
"I knew when I got the phone call. I knew it was bad," Carrie recalls. "They said, 'We found remains last night and we were able to identify them…' to confirm that it's Amber's remains."
Carrie and Moe sat down with "48 Hours" correspondent Troy Roberts just hours later.
"I was still holding out," says an emotional Carrie. "But when they told me it was a sense of relief. Closure. Denial."
"It really hurt the most when they described the condition, her condition, and I wasn't ready to hear that," Moe sys. "They don't have all of her yet. Her entire body has not yet been recovered. We don't know if it's because of wild animals or what. But we just know our whole baby has not been recovered yet."
In a bitter irony, investigators finally locate Amber's remains near the Pala Indian reservation, just a mile from where the live scent dogs led Amber's family six months earlier.
And her family learns that Gardner, a convicted sex offender, had hundreds of parole violations which should have sent him back to prison months earlier.
"He should not have been on the street," says Dave Cave. "He didn't belong on the street."
But Gardner's confession clears up one mystery that's been haunting Amber's family: Dave is no longer a suspect.
"How'd you feel when he was cleared?" Roberts asks Carrie.
"I felt, well I felt relief, you know, of course," she replies.
"Did you feel a little guilty?"
"No, no. It's my daughter."
But Dave is still struggling to understand why Carrie ever had doubts about him.
"There's hurt that will never… that will never pass. I've had things said to me that are more hurtful than anything that's ever been said to me in my life," he says. "People that should have had 100-percent faith in me didn't. And that's a hurt that's never gonna go away."
Friends and family gather three weeks later as Amber is laid to rest.
"I carry Amber close to me," Moe says. "She's by my side and she always will be."
"I feel a sense of closure," Carrie says. "I think he feels devastated, where my anger is going to keep me going to bring justice for Amber."
On April 16, 2010, in a San Diego courtroom, John Gardner pleads guilty to the slayings of Amber Dubois and Chelsea King and the attack on jogger Candice Moncayo.
But Gardner's guilty plea is not enough for Carrie, who feels the need to confront her daughter's killer face to face.
Carrie says she needs answers. "How he got Amber. I needed to know if she cried for me, if she begged for her life."
Authorities won't let Carrie see Gardner, so she takes to waiting at the entrance to the jail, sparking a confrontation with Gardner's mother, a psychiatric nurse.
"It pisses me off that the mom didn't go public and say, 'I'm sorry, you know, my son is a monster. He's still my son, I still love him because he's still my son. But I'm sorry, I reach out to the families and apologize for his behavior.' You know, she just runs. And I just think that's weak," says Carrie.
Asked by a reporter outside the jail why Gardner's mom wouldn't let him visit with Carrie, Gardner's sister, Sharon replies: "She wouldn't let Gardner do anything," and continues on to say, "We're sorry. We're sorry beyond you don't even know."
Then, just two days before sentencing, Carrie is granted a meeting with Gardner.
"I had been coached by Escondido Police Department… that if I showed rage, if I showed anger I wouldn't get the answers I wanted," she explains. "And so when I went in there I had a mindset of just, I'm going in to ask the questions.
"The biggest thing was how did he get my daughter. How was he able to get Amber in his car. And when he finally told me how it happened, it made sense then."
According to Gardner, he was driving in the neighborhood at about 7 a.m. when he spotted Amber walking alone down an empty side street.
"She wasn't anywhere where any of us thought she was… she was not anywhere near the school," says Carrie.
In an exclusive interview with "48 Hours," convicted killer John Gardner explains exactly how he abducted and murdered Amber Dubois.
"I passed her driving down the street. And that's the first time I saw her," Gardner says.
"I pulled up next to her with the windows down on the car. I had the knife out and visible. And told her that I also had a gun. And to get in the car or it was going to be a lot worse.
"She actually looked at me in kinda shock and disbelief and asked me if I was kidding. And I raised my voice and yelled, "No. Get the F in the car."
"I can see the whole thing," Carrie says. "How she looked at him and how she was scared when she saw him."
"I drove to the remote area and on driving I put the music on. She wanted to hear music so that she could pretend she wasn't there," Gardner continues.
During the 40-minute ride to the Indian reservation, Gardner says a terrified Amber badgered him, begging him to let her go.
"She asked me why I was doing it, what was wrong."
"But she wasn't crying. She never cried," Carrie says. "And she just kept going, 'Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this?' and asking a lot of questions."
When we got to the Pala area …I turned into like a little plateau dirt area that was just off of that road… and that's where everything - the rest of it took place."
"And he took her to the location, he raped her and then out of the blue, he doesn't know why, he just grabbed the knife… he ran over and stabbed her," Carrie explains.
For a half an hour, Carrie listened spellbound as Gardner filled in the missing pieces of her daughter's last day on earth. But surprisingly, instead of breaking her, Carrie says it gave her strength.
Asked how she felt when she left the meeting with Gardner, Carrie tells Roberts, "I felt great. Because, I had, in my opinion, I had complete closure… I got the answers I was looking for… I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, which is something that I hadn't seen for 13 months."
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