Teens' Killer John Gardner: "I Hate Myself"

John Albert Gardner III is escorted by sheriff deputies as he glances toward the judge at an arraignment where he pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the case involving teenager Chelsea King in a San Diego Superior Courtroom Wednesday March 3, 2010 in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
A man who pleaded guilty to raping and murdering two San Diego-area teenage girls said in his first interview since his arrest that he hates himself for what he did.

John Albert Gardner III also said was overcome by rage and couldn't control himself, and claimed he had tried to turn himself in before he killed his victims, but was turned away.

He sidestepped a question from a reporter at CBS affiliate KFMB in San Diego about whether there were other victims, laughing off the question as a "good try."

Gardner pleaded guilty April 16 to murdering 17-year-old Chelsea King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois in a deal with prosecutors that spared him the death penalty. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 14 to life in prison without parole.

"I was aware of what I was doing, and I could not stop myself," he said in the telephone interview. "I was in a major rage and pissed off at my whole life and everyone who had hurt me and hurt the wrong people."

Gardner, 31, said his lawyers pushed for the plea agreement and that he never cared about being sentenced to die.

"You think that I don't have guilt and I don't hate myself for what I did? I hate myself, I really do," he said. "There is no taking back what I did and if I could, yes, I would. Are you kidding me? But I was out of control. If I was able to stop myself in the middle of it, I would have, and I could not. I was out of control."

At another point, Gardner said, "It wasn't about their age with me. I actually didn't go out and look for them. I did not sit and wait for them. … Everything that I've done was horrible. What am I supposed to say? That I tried to prevent it? Yeah I did."

And, in what "Early Show" national correspondent Hattie Kauffman refers to as a "stunning" statement, Gardner claims he knew he was dangerous and tried to turn himself in to a mental hospital, but was turned away. "Now, if I'm denied help," he said, "am I fully to blame for my actions? Hell yeah, but could it have been prevented? Yeah, it could have."

Chelsea's body was found March 2 in a shallow, lakeside grave, five days after she was attacked running in a San Diego park. Gardner was arrested three days after Chelsea disappeared, linked to the crime by semen found on her clothing.

Gardner led authorities March 5 to Amber's remains in a remote, rugged area north of San Diego, more than 13 months after he abducted her while she was walking to school in suburban Escondido.

"I had no promises and I showed them where Amber was because I felt bad," Gardner said. "I had no promise of any deal when I did that."

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has said Gardner led authorities to Amber's remains on condition that the information not be used against him in court. Investigators were unable to link Gardner to the crime independently, a major reason that Dumanis agreed to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for his admission of guilt.

Gardner served five years of a six-year prison sentence for molesting a 13-year-old San Diego neighbor in 2000.

Gardner said he would discuss details of how he killed his victims only with their families, if they ask.

"I've been looking for answers for almost 15 months," Amber's mother, Carrie McGonigle, told co-anchor Chris Wragge on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning." "I've been looking for answers for almost 15 months."

But, McGonigle added, authorities won't let her meet with Gardner before he's sentenced which she finds "completely unfair. He was able to speak his mind for two hours in an interview, but I'm not allowed to have my time."

McGonigle says she "absolutely" will keep seeking that meeting before sentencing, noting, "It completely changes what I'll say at the sentencing. It changes my victim's impact statement completely."