Thousands expected to mourn death of Southern Caifornia teen

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AP photo

Chelsea King.

POWAY -- Students have wrapped ribbons around 8,000 sunflowers to hand out at a memorial service for Chelsea King, the 17-year-old girl whose murder has shaken her community and spurred calls for legal changes in how child sex offenders are treated.

"A lot of people are getting ready to bring closure to it," said Evan Shirley, 17, a friend of Chelsea's. "I hope to see everyone come out to support the family and honor their friend in whatever way they see fit."

The service Saturday comes 11 days after Chelsea's body was discovered in a shallow, lakeside grave near Lake Hodges, ending a massive five-day search. Organizers were issuing passes to limit seating at Poway High School stadium, which holds about 6,000 people.

Chelsea was a straight-A student ran on the cross-country team, played French horn in the San Diego Youth Symphony and was active in her school's peer counseling program. She was a tireless volunteer in school and community activities, whether working at a prom for special education students or packaging food for needy families in Africa.

She had applied to 11 colleges and aspired to a career that would combine her interests in writing and the environment.

Chelsea was last seen Feb. 25 wearing running clothes in Rancho Bernardo Park in San Diego, where her car was found locked with her belongings inside.

John Gardner, 30, was arrested three days later and pleaded not guilty to the murder and to the attempted rape of another woman in December. He also is a suspect but has not been charged in the killing of 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who disappeared as she walked to school in nearby Escondido in early 2009.

Gardner served five years of a six-year sentence for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor in 2000 to molesting a 13-year-old neighbor. He was on parole for three years, until September 2008.

On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered a review of the way the state handled the 2000 case.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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