Thursday, February 24, 2011


It was a Thursday night exactly one year ago that our little world here in north county San Diego was turned upside down and torn apart. I remember taking my evening medications, getting ready for bed, and then receiving the phone call from another Bernardo Derm employee...that our co-worker's daughter was missing. My first thought was to join an effort to find her, even late at night after I had taken sleep inducing pills. But I was told that the search efforts were being done by the police at the time. AB and myself vowed to keep the missing girl and her family in our prayers that night, and to keep each other informed if we heard anything. I tried to sleep...but even with sleeping pills, rest never came. Throughout most of the night I could hear the search and rescue helicopters making round after round, realizing just how close to my home that my friends daughter had gone missing. All I could do was lie there, completely helpless.

The next morning I caught the news updates on the search, as nothing had been found the night before, but more importantly, no body had been found. I arrived at work to find our once dermatology office turned into a search and rescue headquarters, with all copiers being used to make thousands of fliers, groups of nurses and medical billers looking at maps, deciding where to take teams to canvas Chelsea's image, looking for any piece of information. Our Physicians gathered around the King family offering help in anyway possible, food, prayer, media blocking...etc. Us in the front office took on the duties of calling patients to cancel appointments for the day, and also to inform dedicated patients of our practice on how they could help. Patients by the handful came into our office to pick up hundreds of fliers at a time to take to various areas throughout the southern California office. Those of us that stayed in the office to yield phone calls and such, also got the information out all over the state, by faxing fliers to personal contacts all over California and into Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Mexico...on the chance that if she was kidnapped...someone might have seen her somewhere.

The day continued with very little new information. That night, many of us attended a meeting at Poway High School, gathered by the Student Services and Peer Counseling groups that Chelsea was a part of. A place that is usually used for informational meetings became a place of refuge...where people young and old shared their fears, their anger, and their love for a friend and for each other. Hope filled that room. It was incredible.

Early Saturday morning, some of us and our families and friends met up at Denny's for an early breakfast, then made our way down Bernardo Center Drive towards an arrangement for Search and Rescue teams to head out into the Lake Hodges area to search for any clues, and ultimately, for a girl who was wanted home. When we arrived, there in the pouring rain I witnessed one of the most incredible sights. THOUSANDS of people from our community, and their family and friends lined up around and around the buildings, dressed for the worst weather we could have needed...but ready to do what they could. So many people showed up that the agency was forced to turn most away. But those of us who couldn't head out into the fields, hit the streets. A few girlfriends and myself took a couple of the fliers that were made up, ran over to Kinko's to make copies...and once again I found myself stunned. We waited in lines as well over 20 people were in there, spending their own money, to make their own copies. Conversations started and were overheard, of how near and far people were planning to spread the image of this missing girl...

We headed towards Riverside county. The news had already reached there...but we still did the best we could.

Theories of what had happened went back and forth. Dogs traced her scent back to her abandoned car, leading the police to believe for a long time that she had been kidnapped from outside her vehicle. But by Saturday night, a shoe confirmed to be hers was found, and thoughts only spiderwebbed from there. At that point, I have to admit I had begun to lose my hope. She had been gone for over 48 hours, with no real trace of where to look. I wept all night long, trying so hard to cling to a Comforter I had put my hope in for years, but found no solace.

Sunday came, and prayers were said at Churches throughout the state. More Search and Rescue teams were formed again, despite the failing efforts the day before and the horrible weather that didn't seem to let up. I tried my best to find some sort of peace...but found myself glued to the internet and news reports, and the mass text messages being sent back and forth between Bernardo Derm people. That night, I took a break from the intensity and went out for Sushi with a few friends. While at dinner, my phone rang and a co-workers name popped up on the caller ID. I bolted outside of the noisy restaurant so I could take the call. The news: they found a suspect for kidnapping and had him in custody. There was going to be a public announcement and press conference in an hour and they would announce it then. We hurried back to a friend's house to watch the conference...and I was so distressed by the looks in the faces of the investigators and those of the King family. They might have found a suspect, but their now was such little hope of finding Chelsea alive, it was obvious.

John Gardner refused to admit to anything, or cooperate with police for most of Monday...and the waiting and searching continued. A service was held at a local church, a candlelight vigil and prayer service...and I had the chance to meet the extended King family, and embrace them as I knew Christ would. I handed over another of my "Fear Not" rings to Kelly, and urged to not be afraid, whatever happens, her daughter is okay.

Then on Tuesday afternoon, as we at Bernardo Dermatology had tried to get our office back to normal, but having several internet news sites and radios on to hear any news...then it happened. We didn't know exactly what at first. But in a rush, every single employee was asked to come into our office managers office. We dropped everything. Patients in the waiting room, on the phone, in exam rooms...all abandoned. But it didn't matter...this was more important. On March 2nd just after 1pm...they had discovered Chelsea's body in a shallow dug grave near Lake Hodges. Heavy devastation and pain fell upon the room, as tears were fought by some and but unavoidable by others.

It was over. She was gone. And from that point on, hope was lost.

But for a few days, I was inspired by the love of a community like I'd only imagined in a fantasy world.

So tomorrow, we remember an amazing girl, taken too soon. Chelsea, we'll never forget.