ESCONDIDO, Calif. — More than 1,000 people paid tribute Saturday to a 14-year-old girl whose remains were found more than a year after she disappeared walking to school. Her father urged anyone who cried for her to demand a crackdown on child predators.
Amber Dubois was a voracious reader with a fertile imagination and a profound love of animals, friends, family and teachers told the audience on a sun-drenched track field at Escondido High School, north of San Diego. Her favorite animal, the wolf, appeared in front of the stage along with a llama, snake, monkey and goats.
The ceremony ended when the parents of Amber and three other California girls who have been kidnapped and killed each released a dove on stage. They included the parents of Chelsea King, a 17-year-old whose body was found five days after she was last seen running Feb. 25 in a San Diego park.
Amber's bones were discovered March 6 in a rugged, remote area north of San Diego. She vanished Feb. 13, 2009, carrying a $200 check to purchase a lamb she was to raise for Future Farmers of America. The check was never cashed.
Taylor Doyle, a friend, recalled riding horses with Amber at summer camp, reading books with her in bed and seeing her "radiance and beauty" at freshman homecoming. She hoped to attend college with Amber and raise children together.
"Now I'm robbed," she said. "Whoever did this robbed me of having this legacy."
John Albert Gardner III, 30, is the only suspect that police have named in Amber's death but he has not been charged. Authorities have not said what led them to the remains.
Three days before Amber's bones were found, Gardner pleaded not guilty to murdering Chelsea King and attempting to rape another woman in December. He served five years of a six-year sentence for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor in San Diego in 2000.
Maurice Dubois, Amber's father, recalled how his daughter teased him – how she laughed when a goose attacked him at a park and fiddled with his ear while he was driving. On a more serious note, he pleaded with the audience to demand that laws aimed at stopping child predators are funded and enforced.
"We need to protect the children we have left, the children we have around us," he said. "I don't want this to go in vain. I want us to make a change."
Marc Klaas, who founded Klaaskids Foundation after his 12-year-old daughter was abducted from a slumber party in 1993 and later found slain, also demanded tougher enforcement.
"We worked so hard, we passed so many laws, we keep thinking we've made a difference, but it keeps continuing, it keeps going on. Ladies and gentlemen, we have to hold our politicians accountable," said Klaas, who helped in the search for Amber.
Speakers remembered a quiet but self-assured girl who made friends easily.
Carrie McGonigle, Amber's mother, said her daughter collected rat's bones as a young girl and kept them in her bedroom.
Carrie McGibney, an eighth-grade teacher, said Amber read books while walking down the hallway and flipped the pages under her desk while simultaneously taking history notes.
Another eighth-grade teacher, Pat Gross, said Amber stayed after class to discuss books. She last saw Amber a week before her disappearance when her former student dropped by to tell her of her plans to raise a lamb.
"It was the Amber I knew and remember – kind, enthusiastic and innocent," Gross said.
Mark Reyburn, her high school agriculture teacher, Amber was a talented public speaker who found her niche in his agriculture class and looked forward to a career in animal sciences.
Reyburn said he had to admonish Amber to stop reading while he was lecturing.
"She would reply with her big blue eyes, 'While I was reading, I could hear you,'" he said.