SAN DIEGO — Thousands of mourners walked the sidewalks of a wide avenue in silence, holding candles and tearfully embracing.

Many were at a loss for words over the discovery of a body believed to be that of 17-year-old Chelsea King, five days after the popular, straight-A student from San Diego County disappeared and two days after a registered sex offender was booked on suspicion of rape and murder.

Severe shock and denial among King's classmates is giving way to anger and hurt, Traci Barkerball, King's teacher for three years at Poway High School, said Tuesday night.

"What bothers me most is the kids don't feel safe anymore," Barkerball said between hugs for grieving students. "Their sense of security has been taken away from them."

Brent King, Chelsea's father, thanked supporters on the lawn of St. Michael's Church in Poway, northeast of San Diego. Some in the audience fought to control their sobs as he spoke.

"One of the nicknames that I've always called my daughter is my Angel. She's my angel forever," he said.

"I want to thank you. Chelsea wants to thank you," he said.

When someone shouted, "We love you," Brent King responded, "We love all of you."

The body was found buried in a shallow grave on the south shore of Lake Hodges, said San Diego County Sheriff William Gore. The body has not been positively identified but Gore said there was a "strong likelihood" it was Chelsea's.

John Albert Gardner III, 30, was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in San Diego.

The Lake Elsinore man pleaded guilty in May 2000 to molesting a 13-year-old female neighbor and served five years of a six-year prison term. Prosecutors said he lured the victim to his home with an offer to watch "Patch Adams," a 1998 movie starring Robin Williams.

The girl was beaten before escaping and running to a neighbor.

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