Amber Dubois was one of the missing children on a People magazine that I had for quite a while. Until yesterday, I did not link Amber with an area that I am very familiar with - the Indian reservation lands in north San Diego County.
Amber was last seen alive February 13, 2009, walking to Escondido High School in her hometown. Her remains were discovered on the Pala Indian lands yesterday. We were all horrified by the taking of Chelsea King two weeks ago. Many people remembered Amber's disappearance and connected her case to Chelsea's disappearance and the discovery of her remains near Lake Hodges. Now, the connection is being made for real, and sex offender John Gardner, already held for the murder of Chelsea, is also suspected in Amber's disappearance and death.
I have limited things to contribute to this discussion, except to say that my heart breaks for Amber's family and friends and for Chelsea's family and friends. I've already made the point that our society is very, very disturbed if the lives of these beautiful young girls are held at less regard than the life of a monster like the man who seems likely to have murdered them both. It's equally disturbed in that it can manage to hold a monster like Gardner in prison for five years or less, while incarcerating nonviolent drug users or embezzlers of modest sums of money for much longer periods with no remorse, no thought of parole, and plenty of outrage if leniency or alternatives for them are suggested. Heck, they even take bank robbers more seriously than they take vicious criminals like Gardner.
First, I have to issue a warning to all the young ladies out there who are the age of my students, of my own daughter, and of Amber and Chelsea's age. Please do not take any chances. Please, please, always go with friends or family - don't jog alone, and don't even take it for granted that walking back and forth to school alone is safe. Amber was on her way to school at 7:10 in the morning when she was last seen. Chelsea had her own car and was an athlete going for an afternoon run - and I'm sure neither girl had the least idea this type of danger was out there. But - it is.
In 1982, I was on my way to visit my then-fiance in La Mesa, driving down the 15 toward San Diego. I was driving my trusty (not) VW Rabbit, my first car, and was not very experienced driving it. I was very nervous and just about died when a CHP siren and lights came on. I was sure I hadn't been speeding (I probably was - a little bit). The dark-hair officer pulled me over on a strange offramp. Right off, he told me that he'd pulled me over because one of my tail lights wasn't working. He warned me about safety and began to ask a bunch of questions. First, he asked, "Do your parents know where you are?" Like an idiot, I told him I lived with my grandmother and where I was headed and why. He wanted to know why I had so much gum in the front seat (I had spilled a pack of gum). He asked dozens of questions and I got a really bad feeling. He asked me to step out of the car, but I said "no." Then, he suddenly changed and became super-sweet and said I could go. I got to my boyfriend's house and told him, his father and mother about it. They poo-pooed my fears that there was something wrong with the officer. Basically, they said I was exaggerating, and over time, I forgot all about it. Until last year, when by coincidence, I was flipping through the channels and heard the announcer mention San Diego, and it showed a picture of a beautiful blond girl. It was a show about the killing of Cara Knott - four years after . . . I watched the whole show, including pictures of the CHP officer who murdered Cara, and did not recognize the officer until they played a clip of the officer, Craig Peyer, who represented the CHP as an official spokesperson on the news. It wasn't his looks that I recognized so much as his voice - those rapid-fire, obnoxious, scary questions.
You got it. At age 19, I got pulled over driving alone at dusk by the lone murderous CHP officer, Craig Peyer. I had a bad feeling . . . but nobody listened.
So my message is this: don't take any chances, and if you have a "bad feeling," don't ever, ever ignore it. Listen to it, and get out fast. And if your friends/relatives think it's "funny" or think you're exaggerating - remind them of Amber and Chelsea. No normal person's fears could ever match up to what they, or poor Cara, endured.