SAN DIEGO (CNS/ CBS 8) – Amber Dubois' mother, Carrie McGonigle, confronted the author of a new book about her daughter's killer, during a book signing event in Mira Mesa on Thursday night.
The dispute is over publication of the book "Lost Girls," by former U-T San Diego reporter Caitlin Rother. The book delves into the murders of Dubois and Poway teenager Chelsea King, as well as explores the psychological history of convicted murderer John Gardner.
McGonigle and members of Team Amber Rescue, a search and rescue group she created that has helped with other missing person cases, protested outside the Barnes & Noble where Rother's event was being held.
About halfway through her presentation, the demonstrators went inside and stood at the back of the crowd, and Rother acknowledged McGonigle's presence.
"I just wanted to tell you personally, since I wasn't able to talk to you, that I am really sorry for your loss. And I had no intention of trying to upset you with this book," Rother said. " I wish you could find something in this book that could help you, because I think I am helping other people."
But McGonigle said she was not convinced that the author's intentions are in the interest of public safety and awareness.
"It's not for the greater good -- that's a bunch of crap!" McGonigle told News8. "It's not the making of a monster. It was an opportunity for her," she said in response to Rother's previous claim that the book explores the psychological development of the killer in order to help society understand what turned John Gardner into a murderer, and to prevent future crimes of the same nature.
McGonigle says she has read the book and is not ruling out the possibility of taking Rother to court.
"There's a few things where I think we can take legal action. But I'll leave that to the attorneys."
The war of words between Amber's and Chelsea's parents and the author went public on the Internet earlier in the day, just hours before Rother was scheduled to attend the book signing event.
In a posting on the Chelsea's Light Facebook page, Chelsea's father Brent King and McGonigle wrote that they were "deeply hurt" by Rother's "unauthorized" account of their daughters' deaths.
They asked the author to donate 100 percent of her personal revenue from the book to a nonprofit that helps crime victims.
In response, Rother posted on her own Facebook account that she was aware of their feelings and sorry for their losses.
"I'm also sorry they don't see it this way, but this is my way of honoring their daughters -- to try to prevent other young girls from being raped and killed by sexual predators," Rother said.
She said "true crime" was a long-standing book genre that does not require authorization from people connected to the case. She also said she maintains friendly relations with victim families from her previous works.
Rother turned from newspaper reporting to book writing after she covered the Kristin Rossum case, in which a woman who worked as a toxicologist at the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office was convicted of murdering her husband while she was allegedly having a love affair with her supervisor.
King, a Poway High School senior, disappeared while jogging in January 2010 in the hills near Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Her body was discovered several days later beside Lake Hodges.
Dubois, a freshman, vanished about one year earlier while walking to Escondido High School. A registered sex offender, John Albert Gardner III, confessed to killing both teens and led authorities to Amber's remains in a remote section of northern San Diego County.
Rother said her book has received positive reviews so far, though she knew there would be some controversy.
"I believe that this is a story that needed to be told in depth, not in sound bites in the media," she said in her statement. She said she hoped to educate her readers about sex offenders.
Read the full statement response from Caitlin Rother, author of "Lost Girls":
I'm aware of the families' feelings and I'm sorry for their loss and what
they're going through. I'm also sorry they don't see it this way, but this is my
way of honoring their daughters -- to try to prevent other young girls from
being raped and killed by sexual predators.
I reached out to both families for interviews so I could pay a more personal
tribute to Chelsea and Amber, but they chose not to cooperate. As a result, I
told their stories as sensitively as I could, purposely leaving out gruesome
details that might upset their parents.
"True crime" is a longstanding genre in which the authors always try to obtain
the victims' families participation. This is not always possible, but we don't
require "authorization." When I have worked with such families in the past, I've
often stayed in touch with them after publication, because I've earned their
respect and friendship due to my sensitive handling of their loved ones. I
regret that is not the case here.
In this case, people are clearly reacting to their perceptions of this book
rather than to its actual content. There also seems to be a misconception that
these books pay big profits. They really don't. And so far, the efforts I've
already tried to make in organizing charity fundraising events around this book
have been unsuccessful.
I urge people to please pick it up and read it before they judge me and my
motives personally. I am a career Pulitzer-nominated investigative journalist
and a New York Times bestselling author of non-fiction. I write compassionate
and deeply researched stories about tragedies like this to try to give people a
better understanding of the human condition. The reviews from those who have
actually read LOST GIRLS have been extremely positive and until today, I've
received an overwhelming level of support for writing about such a difficult
subject and trying to highlight flaws in our system in an effort to foster much
I wrote this book knowing there would be some controversy -- not to make
boatloads of money but because I felt very strongly that this was an opportunity
to educate people about sex offenders. I believe that this is a story that
needed to be told in depth, not in sound bites in the media. Our system for
dealing with sexual predators is BROKEN. Chelsea's Law alone isn't going to fix
it, and neither is shooting the messenger.