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North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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‘Lost Girls’ author discusses book, ensuing controversy

Journalist and true-crime author Caitlin Rother recently released her book “Lost Girls” amid a firestorm of protests and controversy. On July 7, Rother was at the Encinitas Library discussing the book.

The talk centered on her research for the book, but the controversy dominated the theme as she defended her motives behind writing it.

“I think it’s important for us to understand people like (John Gardner) so we can protect ourselves,” Rother said before a group of about 40 to 50 community members.

“Lost Girls” chronicles the events that led to the murders of North County teens Amber Dubois in 2009 and Chelsea King in 2010 by convicted sexual predator John Gardner.

The book, released July 3, was done so without the permission of the victims’ families. While Rother said she intentionally left out gruesome details of the crimes out of sensitivity, the book exposed a community wound that left many feeling the need to respond.

An online protest went viral, spreading from Facebook to with negative reviews of the book. user Andrew Gruchy gave the book a one-star rating, saying, “The author is profiting off the pain of these families.” More than 60 others gave the book one star with comments similar to Gruchy’s.

Carrie McGonigle, Amber’s mother, faced Rother at a July 5 signing at Barnes and Noble in Mira Mesa in protest of the book.

Legally, Rother needed no permission to write the book. However, Rother said she wanted to develop a relationship with the victims’ families and interview them for the book. The families declined.

Rother did research for 18 months, working from public information such as court documents and interviews with those connected to the case. Rother said she found examples of cracks in the legal system that ultimately opened the door to the crimes.

“Our system is really broken. That’s what I’m trying to talk about in this book,” Rother said.

While Rother said she had the best intentions for the book, she said she knew that the parents of the victims would be upset.

“I was trying to be sensitive when putting this book together,” Rother said. “I feel bad that (the parents) were hurt by this book, but I can’t un-write it.”

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  • Lost Girls book signing/talkWednesday, July 11, 6:30 pmBarnes & Noble2615 Vista WayOceanside, CA 92054
  • Lost Girls book signing/talkSaturday, July 14, 2:00 pmBook Carnival348 Tustin StreetOrange, CA 92866
  • Lost Girls book signing/talkSaturday, Sept. 29, 10 amLa Jolla Country Day9490 Genessee Ave.La Jolla, CA 92037

Before Rother’s first book -signing for “Lost Girls” on July 5, the families of Amber and Chelsea released a joint statement.

“Our families are being driven backwards at a time when we’re all working so hard to move forward. We have already been through the most devastating storm of our lives so, although weathering this new one pales, we are deeply hurt,” the statement read.

In the statement, the families also urged Rother to donate all of the book’s profits to a victims’ support charity of her choice.

“My goal was not to upset people. But to be honest, people need to get upset for things to change,” Rother said. “I’m hoping to be a catalyst for change. If people are angry at me – so be it – it’s bringing the community together.”

Scott Allison is a North County freelancer writer and photographer


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‘Lost Girls’ author discusses book, ensuing controversy