Chelsea King Parents Help Pass Sex Offender Law

Chelsea King was a beautiful and talented high school student whose life was brutally cut short by a convicted sex offender.

Less than seven months after the San Diego 17-year-old was raped and murdered while jogging near her home, California is taking steps to ensure it never happens again, with a new law aimed at making sure other predators are locked up for good.

CBS News correspondent Betty Nguyen reports that on Thursday, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed "Chelsea's Law," and vowed to keep the most dangerous sexual offenders behind bars for life.

Schwarzenegger said, "Because of Chelsea, California's children will be safer, because of Chelsea this never has to happen again."

CBS News Legal Analyst Lisa Bloom remarked, "This could be considered a one-strike law for violent sexual predators. Judges in California will now have the power to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole on someone with just one conviction for the sexual assault of a child."

John Gardner confessed to the attack on Chelsea, and also led authorities to the body of 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who was missing since 2009.

Gardner had been imprisoned a decade ago for molesting his 13-year-old neighbor, but served only five years, despite a psychiatrist's warning that he was still a dangerous predator. This revelation outraged Chelsea's community.

Brent King, Chelsea's father, said in May, "I am filled with a rage I did not think I could possess against this man. I hate him with all my soul."

Bloom pointed out, "The idea behind this law is to save lives, to track predators, to keep them in prison, in some cases for life, in order to save the lives of other potential young victims."

Chelsea's mom thanked the governor directly.

Kelly King said, "You've helped us fulfill our dream of doing everything in our power to prevent this tragedy from ever happening to another family again."

This new law will also toughen other penalties for child molesters, including requiring lifetime parole and GPS monitoring for more serious offenders.

On Friday, Brent and Kelly King and Republican California Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who led the "Chelsea's Law" effort, appeared on "The Early Show" broadcast.

Brent said, "Yesterday was a very good day in California."

Kelly added, "As a parent, there was no other choice than to say, 'enough is enough.' This has happened too many times to too many beautiful, innocent young children. And it's got to stop."

Brent said the law brings hope to other families.

He said, "It brings some peace to other families, that they shouldn't have to go through what we went through. And that brings some peace to Kelly and I, that we're helping the community as much as we can. And that brings us some healing."

Fletcher said he was drawn to the Kings' case because of the public safety issue.

He said, "When you look at what happened and you look at the terrible tragedy that in so many cases was preventable, and you recognize that public safety is the critical responsibility of government, it's the most important thing it does is protection of the children, protection of the innocent, to see the failure and know that out of this tragedy everyone felt an obligation to try to do something, to, as Brent said, ensure that future families don't have to go through what they're going through. It really was the spirit of Chelsea and the bravery and dedication of Brent and Kelly that got us to yesterday, which is a really good day in California."

So how did the law pass so quickly?

"Early Show" anchor Harry Smith pointed out laws usually take years to pass.

Fletcher replied, "Well, that was one of the things when we started, I was kind of being realistic and I told Brent and Kelly, 'Hey, these things take years.' Sometimes they go to an initiative of the people, but there was an amazing team of supporters that came together. There were tens of thousands of community leaders, parents, law enforcement groups, crime victims groups, but most importantly, the most powerful story of an amazing woman, Chelsea King, that led to us the effort, for what we started, what was the unthinkable: that in a few short months pass one of the most sweeping public safety measures in California. And I think it's a great tribute and legacy to the power of Chelsea King and to the dedication of Brent and Kelly, who chose to say, 'We're going to do everything we can to make California a better place."

If the law had been in place, Kelly said her daughter would have been around.

She said, "In my heart of hearts, I believe we would not be sitting here (talking about her death.)"

Brent added, "As long as we had a tough judge who would enforce it, we wouldn't be sitting here."

Smith added the family has moved to Chicago since Chelsea's death.

Smith told the Kings, "I think there will be parents in the future who will be able to thank you for your efforts to make the change in this law in California. And I know people in other states are starting to talk about it, too."
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