Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Disappearance and Murder of 17-Year-Old Chelsea King

The Search

Chelsea King
Chelsea King
Over the next few days, approximately 200 rescue workers, police officers, sheriff's deputies, and volunteers joined forces searching a five-mile area of the massive park, hoping to find Chelsea alive or to locate clues to her whereabouts. The Los Angeles office of the FBI also joined the search effort: dogs were brought in, and helicopters were used to search for the missing girl from the air, to no avail.

"The terrain is tricky out there," said Jan Caldwell, spokesperson for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. "They're going slowly for safety, but make sure they cover every...square inch."

According to her parents, Chelsea was not a girl who took risks, though they acknowledged that she did like to run alone, which had concerned them, but they had felt that there was little they could do about such choices.

"We would never allow her to run by herself," her father said. "But she's a 17-year-old girl. If she chose to run by herself on that day, she didn't do it because her parents said go ahead and run by yourself."

"When you're that age, you feel invincible," her mother said. "Bad things aren't going to happen to you."

Her parents also said that she often stayed up past midnight studying, and that because she was so studious they encouraged her try to find some time to spend with friends. However, she seemed to prefer long-distance running as her mechanism to release stress. Brent and Kelly King referred to Chelsea as their shining light, saying that she was what every parent wants in their children.

Missing poster
Missing poster
"She's that kid," her father said. "You don't worry about her gradeswe worried that she studied too much...."

Posters of Chelsea's photo and description were quickly made up and distributed, mostly by volunteers, all over Poway and throughout the immediate area including nearby Escondido, and news and details of the teen's disappearance were aired on radio and television news programs throughout Southern California, and later across the nation.

Only a few days into the investigation of Chelsea's disappearance, searchers found a piece of clothing along the southern shoreline of Lake Hodges they believed belonged to Chelsea. As a result of the discovery, investigators began talking about the need to search the lake, the perimeter of which has approximately 14 miles of shoreline, as her parents continued to hold out hope that their daughter would be found alive and unharmed.

It was also reported that a jogging shoe and a pedometer had been found during the course of the searches, but police authorities would not confirm or deny the report.

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