You Never Think This Could Happen Here

      You never expect that someone you went to high school with will turn out to be a mass murderer. 
       I didn’t anyways. I grew up in a small rural town surrounded by pine forests. 
       Most of my good friends I knew since Kindergarten. We were a close knit group in high school. We were all in Choir or Drama or Band together. Our group was full of the good kids. For the most part none of us drank in high school or did drugs. We hardly ever skipped class. The few times we did it was to go off road in our friends jeep deep in the forest. The one time I dared skip first period, our group of a few friends went to the McDonald’s over looking Lake Arrowhead to enjoy a cheap greasy breakfast over the glassy morning lake… and we ran into our principle in line. Life in a small town, right?        We went to class the rest of the time, some of us were in AP classes and we tried to maintain good grades so our parents would let us do our extra curricular activities of choice. That was mainly the plays we put on, musicals and our choir trips to different events and Disneyland once a year.  
       We were just normal mountain kids growing up in the mountains that seemed so far from real society down the hill. Growing up in a community so far from gangs, graffiti and smog one would think we had bypassed all the drama and violence we saw when we came home each night to the ABC seven nightly news.
     For the most part the only drama we saw come and go through our little mountain resorts were the wildfires that burned through our pine forests every few years, or our highways washing out and being closed for months at a time. Every few years the mountain communities would see the parade of news vans heading through town because there was a lost hiker from the city some where in the San Bernardino Forest or a record snow fall of a few feet or more. That was our big news in a small town; until 2010.
    In March 2010 I was at work on a warm spring day. I had started seeing flyer’s for a missing teenager in our shopping center in Redlands a few weeks before but honestly, the girl had gone missing in San Diego, so I didn’t really pay attention to them. What were the chances I was going to run into this Taylor Swift looking runaway in this dusty desert town?
    I was at work on a typical afternoon stocking one type of produce or another when my cell phone started ringing like crazy and a friend of mine called me at work. A guy we had been friends with in high school, John Gardner had been arrested for the abduction of Chelsea King ( The missing San Diego girl) It seemed completely unreal to me. 
      This was a friend of ours who had dated one of my best friends, Jenni, pretty much the whole time we were in high school. He had been in choir with us, always singing with the tenors or the baritones. I had a ton of pictures of him and Jenni in all my scrap books from those four years. As one friend after another called me, it seemed completely un real. My friends at work didn’t believe me, asking me what he was like. 
      He was just a normal guy, I told them. I remember he had a great voice.
     When I got home from work that night it was so eiry to turn on the local ABC News and to see John Gardner in handcuffs being led into a police station. At the same time, I felt so bad for this poor girls family, as they eventually found her body in a remote foresty area of the San Diego foot hills. It was actually an area I knew pretty well. Every time we would go to the horse races at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club we would drive the winding back roads through the hills, past Lake Hodges. I felt really bad for this poor young high school girl just out for a jog. I know so many girls who go jogging by themselves, its a scary thought, especially that this could really happen to any one.
      I can remember after this all came out on the news, my best friend Ryan calling me from Central California. It had even made the news to the north. We were just so shocked about everything. It seemed unreal and it still does. We were just normal kids growing up, who would have expected this from any one we were in choir with?
     For weeks after this all went down all of our friends were watching the news pretty much constantly. We were all shocked, to say the least when John Gardner confessed to murdering Chelsea King and Amber Dubois and was sentenced to two life sentences. It seems unreal to think someone I sang in choir with, went to BBQ’s and football games with, will spend the rest of his life behind bars for such a horrible crime.


  1. G

    I was at work eating lunch atop some newspapers. Working full time and going to school full time, there were times I didn’t watch or read the news. I took a bite of my food and a sheet of the paper way across the table caught my eye… I thought that face looks familiar so I reached over for a better look. I registered who it was without reading his name, all I read was the headline calling out his awful crimes. I didn’t finish my lunch.

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