A body discovered during a search is likely a missing Poway teenager, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Chelsea King, 17, has been the subject of an extensive search effort near Lake Hodges since last week. John Albert Gardner III was arrested Sunday in connection to the case of the missing high school student, who spent some time growing up in Illinois before returning to Poway.
The body was found in a shallow grave near a tributary about 15 feet from the southern shore of Lake Hodges. Officials said there was a strong likelihood that they had found the missing Poway High School student. San Diego County Sheriff William Gore added that a positive identification should be made Tuesday night or Wednesday.
Gore said he had informed the teen's parents, Brent and Kelly King.
"Obviously they are devastated, and I ask that you respect their privacy during this extremely difficult time," he said.
Officials cordoned off a large area with police tape and made a series of trips to the shore from a boat moored nearby. The body was found about 10 feet from the water's edge.
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"It's a heavily wooded area and not observable from the homes on the hillside or the park," Gore told the media.
Chelsea’s father, Brent King, spoke to the crowd gathered at St. Michael Catholic Church Tuesday night for what was originally slated as a candlelight vigil in support of the search.
“One of the nicknames that I’ve always called my Chelsea is my angel,” he said, “She’s my angel forever. I want to thank everyone in this community that have touched our hearts. Everyone whose heart was touched by Chelsea."
Dana Matonis, whose daughter was on the cross-country team with Chelsea, said the whole community had lost a child.
"It's very hard," a tearful Matonis said. "I just can't put my head where her parents are right now. I just can't."
Chelsea was last seen Thursday, Feb. 25. before heading out to run after school. Her car was found at the Rancho Bernardo Glassman Community Park. Her cell phone, iPod and school clothes were found inside the car.
Since then, hundreds of volunteers searched the area near Lake Hodges. On Monday, law enforcement sources said an article of King's clothing was found on the southern edge of the lake. DNA on the clothing led to Gardner's arrest, according to investigators.
Gardner has been linked to an attack on a jogger in December, according to investigators. The woman in that case got away and identified Gardner in a photo lineup, detectives said.
An arraignment for Gardner is scheduled for Wednesday. Gore said Gardner was being kept in solitary confinement in the jail's medical wing so that he would not be harmed by others or harm himself according to our media partners the North County Times.
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Key locations in the Chelsea King case:
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