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Steven Dean GORDON





Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Gordon and 30-year-old sex offender Franc Cano abducted, raped and killed four women
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: 2013 - 2014
Date of arrest: April 11, 2014
Date of birth: February 3, 1969
Victims profile: Kianna Jackson, 20 / Josephine Vargas, 34 / Martha Anaya, 28 / Jarrae Estepp, 21 (Estepp’s body was found at an Anaheim recycling plant, while the other bodies have never been discovered. All four were prostitutes.)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Anaheim and Santa Ana, Orange County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on February 3, 2017

photo gallery


Homeless sex offender who killed 4 O.C. women is sentenced to death

By Christopher Goffard - Los Angeles Times

February 3, 2017

Steven Dean Gordon, the serial killer who says he deserves to die for his crimes, found no disagreement last year from the jury nor, on Friday, from the judge.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick H. Donahue sentenced Gordon to death for the abduction and murder of four women who had been working as prostitutes in Santa Ana and Anaheim in 2013 and 2014.

In December, a jury convicted the 47-year-old Gordon of the murders and voted that he should die.

Gordon has repeatedly said he ought to be executed for his crimes, and said he fired his public defender and represented himself at trial in the hopes of speeding along the system.

Three of his victims — Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas, Josephine Vargas, 34, of Santa Ana, and Martha Anaya, 27, of Santa Ana — never were found.

The fourth victim, 21-year-old Jarrae Estepp of Elk City, Okla., was found in an Anaheim recycling plant in March 2014, and the discovery launched the investigation that led to Gordon and his co-defendant, Franc Cano.

At the time of the slayings, Gordon had been homeless and working at a body shop in Anaheim. In taped confessions and at trial, Gordon admitted responsibility for the deaths. He railed against his parole and probation agents, insisting that the victims would be alive if the agents had monitored him more diligently and prevented him from associating with Cano.

Cano is expected to be tried for the murders later this year. Both Gordon and Cano were registered sex offenders who had been wearing ankle monitors as a condition of parole or probation. Detectives managed to link their monitors to the last known location of the victims.

Prosecutor Larry Yellin said the pair had worked together as “a very efficient killing and evidence-hiding machine.”

“My daughter was everything to me,” Herlinda Salcedo, Martha Anaya’s mother, told the judge at the sentencing hearing Friday. She described the grief of her daughter’s young children.

“Every day when they ask me about their mother, I just tell them that their mother is another star in the sky,” Salcedo said.

Katherine Menzies, Jackson’s mother, said that after her daughter’s disappearance, she was haunted by the thought that her daughter might still be alive, perhaps as the captive of a human trafficking ring. At the trial, Gordon confirmed that he had killed her. On Friday, she thanked Gordon for putting the question to rest.

“I feel the death penalty is the right sentence,” she told the judge. “I will never see my daughter, and she will never see my family.”

Gordon cried as some of the victims’ families spoke, and when it came time for him to speak, he said, “I am sorry for everything, but those are hollow words.” As he had before, he denounced his co-defendant, Cano, who had taken the 5th rather than testify at his trial. “He’s a coward. That doesn’t make me any better.”

The judge ordered Gordon taken to death row at the state prison in San Quentin, and then nodded at him briefly. “Mr. Gordon — good luck, sir. OK.”

Afterward, Menzies said she struggled at first to understand Gordon’s motives and “the whole idea of why.” But she said she is a Christian and has studied the Bible, and now thinks she has a clear view of what possessed him.

“Satan,” she said.

Estepp’s mother, Jodi Estepp-Pier, said she was not moved by the killer’s apology.

“He needs to address his apologies to God,” she said. “It’s a little late to apologize to us.”


Jury votes for death penalty for parolee who killed four women in Orange County

By Christopher Goffard - Los Angeles Times

December 21, 2016

An Orange County jury on Wednesday decided a serial killer should be executed for the abduction and murder of four women.

Representing himself at his trial in Santa Ana, Steven Dean Gordon did not dispute his responsibility for the deaths of the women, who had been working as prostitutes in Anaheim and Santa Ana in late 2013 and early 2014.

Nor in his closing argument to jurors Tuesday did Gordon, 47, disagree with a prosecutor's argument that he ought to be executed for his crimes.

"If you kill four people like this in cold blood, you deserve to die — I believe that," Gordon told jurors. "My actions were evil and horrible, and you're gonna get your justice very shortly."

He said he was sorry to have caused pain to the families of Kianna Jackson, 20; Josephine Vargas, 34; Martha Anaya, 27; and Jarrae Estepp, 21 — the women he was convicted last week of killing.

Gordon told jurors he had to fire his public defender because she would not let him plead guilty and he wanted to speed the case along. He also said he had to take the case to trial because defendants representing themselves cannot plead guilty in capital cases under the law.

Prosecutor Larry Yellin told jurors to think of the terror Gordon and his co-defendant Franc Cano, who is expected to be tried next year, inflicted on the victims.

Yellin described the men — who had been registered sex offenders wearing ankle monitors during the period of the killings — as "two incredibly sadistic, cruel, vile people” brought together by “the strangest and wrongest happenstance."

During his trial, Gordon raged against his former parole and probation agents, saying that if they had watched him properly they would not have allowed him to associate with Cano and the victims would be alive.

Gordon also railed against Cano, calling him "that little bastard" and blaming him for certain acts of violence. He said Cano had bitten Estepp and stomped on her neck to ensure she was dead.

Estepp's body was found at an Anaheim recycling plant in March 2014. The other victims' bodies have never been found.

Jurors deliberated for about a day before deciding that Gordon, who had prior convictions for molesting a relative and kidnapping his former wife, should be executed.

During the penalty phase of the trial, which began Monday, the prosecutor called the four victims’ mothers to the stand. They spoke of how close they had been to their daughters.

“She was always with me. She was my best friend,” said Vargas’ mother, Priscilla Vargas. “She would always call me in the morning to make sure I had my Coca-Cola, because I drink a lot of Coca-Cola.”

Anaya’s mother, Herlinda Salcedo, described her panic when her daughter vanished in November 2013. She said she urged police to investigate, convinced her daughter would not just abandon her own preschool-age daughter.

“She was so responsible,” Salcedo said.

After her daughter disappeared, Salcedo said, she passed out fliers, walked among hotels in Santa Ana looking for clues and wrote down the license plates of suspicious vehicles. “We were looking for her for almost six months,” Salcedo said.

When police informed her that her daughter had been killed, Salcedo held a memorial service at the trash bin where Gordon said he had dumped the body.

Gordon chose not to cross-examine the mothers during the penalty phase. When he got a chance to present his defense, he told the jurors that they had “done the right thing” by convicting him. He presented testimony that he was from a broken home and had been molested as a child.

But he did not ask jurors to spare him. He said he hoped when a jury assembles to weigh Cano’s fate, it votes to put him on death row as well.

Referring to what he called their “killing spree,” Gordon told jurors: “There is no defense for what me and him did. Absolutely none. It’s despicable and disgusting.”

Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue is expected to sentence Gordon on Feb. 3.

At one point Wednesday, the jury had seemed to be at an impasse after one member said she could not vote for the death penalty. Gordon asked to have her thrown off the panel, but she was allowed to stay, and soon cast her vote for death.

“I don’t think there was ever a case that has taken as many strange turns from beginning to end,” Yellin said. Among the bizarre twists: Gordon fought successfully to suppress his 13-hour videotaped confession on Miranda grounds before trial, only to insist on playing it for jurors himself. He also volunteered to give another taped confession.

Among court watchers, there was widespread suspicion that Gordon had chosen to represent himself as a way of tormenting his victims’ families. Yellin saw a different motive. “He’s very controlling,” the prosecutor said. “He wanted the trial to be on his own terms.”


Sex offender found guilty of 4 murders while tracked by GPS

By Associated Press

December 16, 2016

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A California sex offender was found guilty Thursday of killing four women while he was being tracked by GPS. He now may face the death penalty.

Steven Dean Gordon was found guilty of four counts of murder for the attacks in 2013 and 2014. Orange County jurors only deliberated for about an hour before issuing the verdict. They also found true special circumstances of murder during a kidnapping and multiple murders, which will make Gordon eligible for a death sentence.

Victims’ relatives clutched hands in the courtroom and closed their eyes while the verdicts were read. Some trembled and some cried.

Gordon looked straight ahead and did not show any emotion.

On Monday a penalty phase will begin where jurors will decide whether to recommend a death sentence or life in prison without parole.

Authorities said the 47-year-old Gordon and 30-year-old sex offender Franc Cano abducted and killed four women. Prosecutors charged both men with rape but later dropped the rape charges against Gordon.

Investigators said they pieced together the case after the body of missing 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp was found at a recycling center in Anaheim. Authorities said the men’s tracking devices linked them to the disappearance of the women.

Gordon, who represented himself at trial, confessed to authorities in an interview played for jurors about his role in the killings.

Gordon and Cano were registered sex offenders after being convicted in separate cases of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14. Gordon was convicted in 1992 and also has a 2002 kidnapping conviction, while Cano’s conviction dates back to 2008.

At the time of the killings, Gordon was living in an RV in an industrial area of Anaheim where the men brought their victims and wore a GPS device during at least three of the murders, according to grand jury testimony.

Authorities charged the men with killing three women who went missing in Santa Ana in late 2013 — Kianna Jackson, 20, Josephine Monique Vargas, 34, and Martha Anaya, 28 — in addition to Estepp. All four women had links to prostitution.

Police believe Cano and Gordon knew each other since at least 2010, when Cano cut off his GPS device and fled to Alabama, where he was arrested with Gordon. Two years later, they again cut off their monitoring devices and boarded a Greyhound bus to Las Vegas using fake names before being arrested two weeks later by federal agents.

Cano, who is being tried separately, has pleaded not guilty. His next court appearance is Dec. 29.


Man accused of killing 4 women testifies that he is responsible for their deaths

By Sean Emery - The Orange County Register

Dec. 13, 2016

SANTA ANA – A sex offender on trial for the alleged murder of four women testified Tuesday that he is responsible for their deaths, telling a prosecutor that he was driven by anger at the law enforcement system.

Steven Gordon, who is representing himself, took to the stand as the final witness in his own capital murder trial.

Gordon testified that he and his former friend, Franc Cano, abducted and had sex with five prostitutes, that Cano allegedly strangled them to death, and that both men helped clean the bodies and left them in a trash bin at the Anaheim industrial park where Gordon worked and lived.

“I’m just as responsible for what happened to these five girls as my co-defendant,” Gordon told the jurors. “Even though I changed my mind with the last girl, the fact that it still happened means I have to be held accountable.”

Gordon and Cano are charged with kidnapping and murder in connection to the deaths of Kianna Jackson, 20; Josephine Vargas, 34; Martha Anaya, 28; and Jarrae Estepp, 21. Authorities were never able to locate or identify the fifth suspected victim.

Gordon said he and Cano didn’t plan to kill Jackson, but were angered that she took his money and then tried to leave without finishing a sexual act. Gordon testified that Cano, who was hiding in the vehicle, grabbed Jackson while he drove away. By the time he reached the Anaheim industrial park, Gordon said he knew they couldn’t let Jackson leave.

“When did you decide you wanted to do it again?” Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin asked Gordon.

“Ten days,” Gordon answered. “I was in shock for the first four.”

“You decided you kind of liked it?” Yellin asked.

“I wouldn’t say I liked it,” Gordon said. “It was the anger.”

“What were you angry at?” Yellin said.

“The system,” Gordon answered.

Gordon, who along with Cano wore GPS ankle monitors at the time of the killings, has spent much of the trial criticizing the state parole and federal probation officers who monitored the pair.

The two men were together daily, despite restrictions on sex offenders being around each other. Gordon has argued that if authorities had done a better job watching them, they could have prevented the killings.

Before taking the stand, Gordon showed jurors his 13-hour videotaped interview with Anaheim police Det. Julissa Trapp, in which he discussed the killings.

In exchange for talking, Gordon in the video asked for a quick trip to Death Row, a request he apparently reconsidered before trial.

During the recorded interview, Gordon said he was driven by anger toward law enforcement, as well as to his ex-wife, who he was convicted of kidnapping.

“It just had to do with everything that happened,” Gordon told Trapp when asked to explain why he began abducting and killing the women. “What my wife did to me, what probation and parole did to me and Franc. It’s not an excuse, I’m telling you what happened. All these things built up the anger.”

He also told the detective that they chose nights when they knew garbage pickup would be the next day to quickly dispose of the bodies left in the trash bin, and that there were many other times when they went out looking for prostitutes to pick up and failed to find any.

“Had I not found you, would you guys have continued?” Trapp asked Gordon during the interview.

“I can’t say yes, and I can’t say no,” Gordon replied.

Gordon described in the video how the women screamed and cried in the car but stopped by the time they got to Anaheim.

“When they realize they ain’t getting out, it’s better to calm down,” he told the detective.

Gordon said he didn’t want the last victim, Estepp, killed, but Cano insisted. He described one last moment with the woman after she had been strangled.

“I bent down when (Cano) wasn’t looking, and I kissed her on the lips and said, ‘I’m so sorry,’” Gordon said, recounting how Estepp suddenly started moving again and Cano allegedly responded by stomping on her body.

At the end of the lengthy interview, Trapp thanked Gordon for telling police what trash bin the women were left in, hoping that it would help with the efforts to locate their bodies. Only Estepp’s body has been found.

“I hope you find them,” Gordon replied in a quiet voice.

Closing arguments in Gordon’s trial now begin. Cano is being tried separately. If convicted, both men face the death penalty.


Franc Cano invokes Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying in ex-friend Steven Gordon's murder trial

By Sean Emery - The Orange County Register

Dec. 9, 2016

SANTA ANA – Franc Cano invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying Friday in the capital murder trial of former friend Steven Gordon, citing his right against self-incrimination as authorities have charged both men with the kidnapping and killing of four women.

Gordon, representing himself in his ongoing trial, indicated that he wanted to call Cano, who will be tried separately, as a witness to question him about the time both men spent under the monitoring of parole and probation officials leading up to the killings.

Gordon has admitted to helping abduct and having sex with Kianna Jackson, 20; Josephine Vargas, 34; Martha Anaya, 28; and Jarrae Estepp, 21. Gordon has said that Cano – who he described as a man without a conscience – was the one who strangled the prostitutes.

Cano, shackled, dressed in jailhouse orange and followed by three deputies, made his first court appearance since the beginning of his co-defendant’s trial. Jurors were not present during the brief hearing, in which Cano’s attorney, Charles Hasse, made clear that his client wouldn’t be taking the stand.

“Do you know me?” Gordon asked in what would be his only query to Cano.

“Your honor, I am invoking my client’s right under the Fifth Amendment not to testify,” Hasse interjected, bringing the questioning to a quick end.

Rather than refute the prosecution’s evidence, Gordon during his questioning of his witnesses on Friday in front of the jury continued to focus on attempts to paint parole and probation officials as failing to properly supervise the two.

Gordon has said that if the people supervising the pair realized they were hanging out together, despite both being registered sex offenders, that would have prevented the killings.

The pair wore GPS ankle monitors that allowed authorities to track their movements. Their former supervisors have testified that they kept an eye on Gordon and Cano’s individual GPS data, but did not compare the information.

“Did you ever review them?” Gordon asked Manuel Ontiveros, a federal probation officer.

“I didn’t see a need,” Ontiveros replied.

“I bet you do now,” Gordon said.

During several days of questioning witnesses, Gordon has continually elicited seemingly damaging testimony about his criminal past and his personality.

In response to queries by Gordon on Friday, Ontiveros described in detail how Gordon molested his young nephew, leading to a conviction that left him on the sex offender list.

While questioning Shiloh Catamese, Gordon’s former psychologist, the defendant brought up a session with a group of sex offenders that he was kicked out of for inciting an expletive-laced argument and throwing a clipboard.

“You don’t remember me saying, ‘You make me so mad I want to kill somebody?’” Gordon asked.

“No, I don’t,” Catamese replied.

At another point, Gordon directly stated that “ultimately only two people are to blame” for the deaths.

“The person sitting here and that piece of (expletive),” Gordon said, pointing to a picture of Cano.

Talking to Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick H. Donahue outside the presence of the jury, Gordon made his frustration clear.

“All of my witnesses have lied,” Gordon said. “And I need some information to discredit them in front of the jurors.”

“That is your responsibility,” the judge replied. “I don’t know what else to say. ... How many times did I ask you before trial if you were ready?”

Testimony will continue Monday. If convicted, both Gordon and Cano face the death penalty.


Sex offender accused of killing 4 women describes co-defendant as a man without a conscience

By Sean Emery - The Orange County Register

Dec. 7, 2016

SANTA ANA – A convicted sex offender accused of kidnapping and murdering four women defended himself in court on Wednesday, saying his alleged accomplice was a man without a conscience who may have also killed another one or two women.

As the trial of Steven Gordon restarted following a two-week break, the defendant focused his opening statements on Franc Cano, who is being tried separately.

Representing himself, Gordon stood unshackled behind the attorneys’ table. He peered down at his notes as he spoke, occasionally glancing at the jury or reaching up to adjust his glasses. Family members of the victims watched quietly from the audience.

“You heard the prosecutor refer to myself and Franc Cano as predators,” Gordon told the jurors. “I would agree with that statement partially. In no way am I a saint, but I have a conscience. He does not. And I am going to prove it to you.”

Gordon, who has admitted to playing a role in the four killings, said without elaboration that Cano may have killed others.

“This is not about the murder of four women,” Gordon said. “This is the murder of five, maybe six. Five for sure. Six, you’d have to ask (Cano).”

Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin, who is prosecuting Gordon, didn’t comment on the allegations of more victims. During their investigation, police had spoken of the possibility of a never-identified fifth victim, but that had not been mentioned during Gordon’s trial.

Gordon showed jurors a series of explicit text messages apparently sent by Cano, many of which referenced prostitutes. He ended with several texts in which Cano seems to reference punishing Gordon’s dog.

“Anybody who can hurt animals and kill somebody without a conscience is a predator,” Gordon said.

Gordon also defended his decision to let go of his court-appointed public defender and represent himself.

“Only cowards hide behind their attorneys,” Gordon said.

Yellin, before resting the prosecution’s case in mid-November, played for jurors a videotaped interview in which Gordon described in detail how he and Cano allegedly abducted Kianna Jackson, 20, Josephine Vargas, 34, Martha Anaya, 28, and Jarrae Estepp, 21.

Estepp’s body was found at an Anaheim recycling plant, while the other bodies have never been discovered. All four were prostitutes.

Gordon, in that interview, admitted to picking up Jackson, Vargas, and Anaya on the streets of Santa Ana and getting Estepp in Anaheim. Gordon said he and Cano forcibly took the women to a business park in Anaheim, had sex with them and put their bodies in a trash bin.

During the interview, Gordon said that Cano was the one who actually strangled the women to death and said that he was opposed to killing Estepp. Gordon also acknowledged going out to pick up some of the women knowing they would be killed, and helping to dispose of three of the them.

After his opening statement on Wednesday morning, Gordon called his first three witnesses, the manager and owners of Boss Paint & Body, an Anaheim automotive shop where Gordon worked.

The three men all said they were aware that Gordon was a sex offender who wore an ankle monitor. They also knew that Cano often hung out with Gordon, and that both men slept in cars behind the automotive shop.

Jerry Montgomery, the shop manager, recalled what Gordon told him when police showed up at the business to take Gordon into custody.

“You said, ‘I’m a piece of (expletive), I killed someone,’ and you said I would probably never see you again,” Montgomery said.

“Do I have anger issues?” Gordon asked Montgomery.

“Oh, yes,” Montgomery responded, prompting Gordon to laugh briefly.

Testimony will continue through the week. If convicted, Gordon faces the death penalty.


Court: Sex offender accused of killing 4 women provided details to Anaheim cop

By Sean Emery - The Orange County Register

Nov. 22, 2016

SANTA ANA – A convicted sex offender told police in an interview shown during his trial on Tuesday that he purposely removed trash bags off of the body of the last of four women he is accused of killing in the hopes that officers would find her.

Family members of the four women sobbed and consoled one other as jurors watched the videotaped interview between Anaheim Det. Julissa Trapp and Steven Gordon, in which the suspect calmly detailed how he and Franc Cano allegedly picked up, had sex with and strangled to death one Anaheim and three Santa Ana prostitutes.

The roughly two-hour interview began with Gordon describing the defendants picking up Kianna Jackson, 20, in Santa Ana for sex. Gordon said that the men were angered when Jackson tried to escape his car after getting paid but before having sex with him.

The pair drove a sobbing Jackson to an Anaheim industrial park where Gordon worked and lived, the defendant said. She agreed to have sex with both, Gordon said, but afterward “freaked out” when she saw the ankle monitor on Gordon’s leg, realizing he was a sex offender.

“The next thing I know, Franc is on top of her, going at it,” Gordon said. “He was strangling her.”

Gordon said that Cano ordered him to punch Jackson several times, hoping to knock the air out of her.

After she was dead, Gordon said, he and Cano cleaned the body and clipped the nails to get rid of any DNA, placed two trash bags over her and dumped her in a trash bin at the industrial park.

“It was never planned by me, it was never planned by him,” Gordon told Detective Trapp of Jackson’s death.

Several weeks later, Gordon said, he and Cano went out again to find a prostitute, running across Josephine Vargas, 34, near a Department of Motor Vehicles office on Grand Avenue in Santa Ana.

“Fair to say the plan was to pick up a prostitute and kill her?” Trapp said.

“Yes,” Gordon replied.

With Cano hiding in the cargo area of Gordon’s 4-Runner, Gordon said, he convinced Vargas to get in his car. As they were driving, Vargas seemed to change her mind, Gordon said, at which point he alleged that Cano came out of the cargo area and grabbed Vargas, pulling her into the back seat.

Once again, Gordon said, he and Cano brought the woman back to the Anaheim industrial park and had sex with her.

Gordon said that Cano strangled Vargas as Gordon walked to Cano’s car to get the woman a drink. He added that they got rid of the woman’s body the same way they had Jackson’s.

Several weeks later, Gordon said, he decided to target 28-year-old Martha Anaya after she refused to get in his car and accused him of being a cop.

“I drove away and told Franc, ‘I‘m going to come back for her,‘“ Gordon said.

Gordon said he grabbed Anaya after she got in Cano’s car. After bringing the woman to the industrial park and having sex with her, Gordon said that Anaya told him that she was particularly scared of Cano.

“I can see it in his eyes, that he is evil,“ Gordon quoter her as saying. “I said, ‘Why do people keep saying that, I don’t see it.’ ”

The two replayed the same pattern with Estepp, Gordon said, picking her up on Beach in Anaheim. He claimed during the videotaped interview that she came willingly, but said in court that that was a lie.

Gordon said that after having sex with Estepp, he decided he wanted to let her live.

“I’m sitting there thinking, “I’m not going to kill this one,‘” Gordon said. “I told myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’“

Cano disagreed, Gordon said, and attacked Estepp and strangled her to death. Angered, Gordon said he refused to help Cano clean up or dispose of Estepp’s body.

“I’m just sitting there and said, ‘I’m done with you,“ Gordon said.

While the bodies of Jackson, Vargas and Anaya were never found, Gordon claimed that he played a part in police locating Estepp’s body at a waste depot in Anaheim.

“I took those garbage bags off her so she would be found, hoping she would be found,” Gordon told the detective.

After the video interview was over and the jurors had left the courtroom, Gordon, who is representing himself, seemed resigned while talking to Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick H. Donahue.

“Nothing is going to help me," Gordon told the judge. “I already know where I’m going. At this point, I want to get it over with."

The trial now breaks until Dec. 7. Cano is being tried separately. Both men face the death penalty if convicted.


Testimony: Detectives detail how they tracked down sex offenders accused of murdering 4 women

By Sean Emery - The Orange County Register

Nov. 17, 2016

SANTA ANA – A pair of feet sticking out of a pile of garbage at an Anaheim waste depot caught the eye of workers, who upon digging a bit deeper realized they were looking at a nude body – not a mannequin as they originally suspected.

Hours later, shin-deep in garbage and staring down at a partially uncovered woman’s body amidst piles of refuse on a conveyor belt, an Anaheim detective spotted a simple tube of caulk that authorities say was the first major break in a case eventually tied to four women.

During testimony Thursday in the capital murder trial of Steven Dean Gordon, Anaheim detectives and crime-scene investigators described the scene following the disturbing discovery, which authorities quickly tied to the earlier disappearances of three other women.

Gordon, as well as Franc Cano, is facing special-circumstances murder and rape charges tied to the killing of four prostitutes. Gordon is representing himself, while Cano will be tried separately.

Investigator Bruce Linn was the first detective to arrive at the Republic Waste Services building after the remains of 21-year-old Jarrae Estepp were discovered in 2014. Linn testified that as he walked along and on top of a conveyor belt, he spotted materials such as wood, baseboard, floor trim and blue plastic that appeared to be from a residential remodel. At the depot, trash is separated and heads to either a recycling center or a dump.

Linn had a crime-scene investigator bring what looked like the cleanest piece of trash – a tube of caulk – back to the police lab. Fingerprints found on the tube led detectives to a laborer who worked at Hardy Windows, a window installation business in Anaheim.

That worker, Elias Sanchez, testified on Thursday that he routinely brought materials he used for door and windows insulation, such as the tube of caulk, back to a dumpster behind Hardy Windows.

Estepp’s autopsy would unveiled signs of sexual assault, testified Dr. Yong-Son Kim, a forensic pathologist with the Orange County Crime Lab. Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said a tampon found in Estepp’s body contain the DNA of two unknown men that would end up being the suspects.

Running out of active leads, the lead investigator, Anaheim Police Detective Julisa Trapp decided to use tracking data to see if any sex offenders had been near the dumpster behind Hardy Windows. She found two: Gordon, who worked at neighboring Boss Paint and Body, and Cano.

For the days the first two women – Kianna Jackson, 20 and Josephine Vargas, 34 – went missing, law enforcement officials had information from both Gordon and Cano’s GPS units. By the time the second two women – Martha Anaya, 28 and Estepp, 21 – went missing, Gordon no longer had a GPS unit, so they could only track Cano’s.

Comparing their movements with information from the missing women’s cell phones, authorities said they determined that at some point on each day they were last heard from, Jackson, Vargas and Anaya were all in the area near First Street and Harbor Boulevard in Santa Ana at the same time that Gordon and Cano were there. The same data indicated that the pair had met up with Estepp on Beach Boulevard.

In all four cases, the GPS and cell information indicated that the women and at least one of the men headed back to the industrial center where Boss Paint and Body and Hardy Windows are located. Yellin earlier in the trial alleged that Gordon and Cano had sex with the women, killed them and put their bodies in dumpsters.

On Thursday, Gordon asked for a mistrial, citing the amount of media coverage the trial has garnered, and the number of deputies in the courtroom: “I don’t think I can get a fair trial.”

Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick H. Donahue checked with jurors to ensure none had run across any news about the case. He also noted that it wasn’t unusual for more deputies to be present for high-profile trials.

“I don’t believe there is anything that would cause the jury to be unfair to you," Donahue told Gordon.


Grand jury transcripts: Prosecutors say gruesome text messages reveal suspects' plan to kill prostitute

By Keegan Kyle and Tony Saavedra - The Orange County Register

Nov. 24, 2014

A few hours before midnight on March 13, prosecutors say, Steve Gordon and Franc Cano debated whether to kill another prostitute.

Her name was Jarrae Estepp – a 21-year-old mother from Oklahoma who stepped off a Greyhound bus earlier that day. Gordon and Cano dubbed her “Cat” or “Kitty.”

According to court documents released Monday, Gordon sent Cano a series of text messages arguing that he couldn’t hurt Estepp. He was timid, he wrote, and she was “beautiful.”

Cano said to “get rid of her” and resisted Gordon’s requests to do the deed. Cano had a curfew and a parole agent monitoring him – and it was Gordon’s turn.

“I thought the next one, you were going to go at it,” Cano wrote. “Either Kitty walks or goes to sleep.”

“Bye-bye, Kitty,” Gordon replied. “Kitty goes to sleep.”

The next day, workers at an Anaheim recycling facility found Estepp’s body on a trash conveyer belt. It was in such poor condition that coroners weren’t sure how she died.

Investigators have a theory, though, based in part on the bruising around Estepp’s neck and police interviews with Gordon.

Gordon and Cano’s text messages, contained in more than 300 pages of grand jury transcripts, offer a new window into one of the county’s biggest murder cases. Arguing the case before the grand jury in October, prosecutor Larry Yellin called the duo a “cold, calculated, serial killing machine.”

The grand jury indicted Gordon and Cano on kidnapping, rape and murder charges in Estepp’s death and the deaths last year of three other women. Prosecutors say each woman worked as a prostitute along Harbor Boulevard or First Street, well-known hubs of the activity.

Gordon, 45, and Cano, 28, have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial without bail. Their next scheduled court hearing is Jan. 16.

Only Estepp’s body has been recovered. Police believe Kianna Jackson, 20; Josephine Vargas, 34; and Martha Anaya, 28, were put in a trash dumpster and now lie buried in Sylmar or Brea landfills. Authorities also suspect the men killed a fifth woman, who hasn’t been identified or found.

Grand jury witnesses included relatives of three victims, investigators, forensic experts and officials specializing in GPS technology. Gordon and Cano wore GPS bracelets when prosecutors say the slayings occurred, and the technology played a pivotal role in identifying them as suspects. Investigators matched data from the duo’s bracelets and each woman’s cellphone.

Jackson’s and Anaya’s mothers told the grand jury that they talked with their daughters almost daily and were shaken by their sudden disappearances in October and November last year. Vargas’ sister told a similar story.

“Everything was fine. I talked to her the 23rd at night. The 24th I didn’t hear anymore from her,” Desiree Vargas said.

The relatives filed missing persons reports with the Santa Ana Police Department and for months pressured officers to take the cases seriously. It was after Estepp’s death that authorities zeroed in on Gordon and Cano.

Two stories

Anaheim police detectives provided some of the most groundbreaking testimony, describing a 13-hour interview in April during which Gordon provided two versions of each woman’s death.

Gordon’s first story to detectives minimized Cano’s participation in the murders, and Yellin introduced it to the grand jury as possible exculpatory evidence.

“Mr. Gordon claimed that Mr. Cano had no idea what he was going to do, and had no idea when he started to strangle (Jackson) that that was about to happen,” said Julissa Trapp, an Anaheim homicide detective who led a team of investigators working the case.

But in his second version to detectives, Gordon described Cano as an exuberant partner in the homicide. Gordon said the duo cruised the streets for prostitutes and found their first victim, Jackson, on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa.

It was October 2013. According to Trapp’s testimony, Cano hid in the back seat when Jackson entered the car and held her down as they drove to an Anaheim auto body shop where Gordon worked. Gordon said Jackson wept as he sexually assaulted her.

Gordon told Anaheim detectives in April that they couldn’t let Jackson live, because their GPS bracelets put them at the scene of the crime. He said both men got on either side of Jackson in the back seat of Gordon’s Toyota 4Runner. Cano choked Jackson and called for Gordon to punch her in the stomach to kill her faster.

“They then got her out of the car, disrobed her, would wash her and then throw away the belongings elsewhere in another city,” Trapp said.

After Jackson, the next woman Gordon admitted attacking was Vargas, the transcript said. Gordon told police that he didn’t want to pick up Vargas. But Cano wanted her.

After assaulting her, they told Vargas they were taking her back, but killed her instead, Gordon told detectives. Then Cano asked Gordon to leave for a little while.

When Gordon returned, they disposed of her body in a trash bin as they had Jackson.

With Anaya, the men tried to pick her up twice. The first time, she flipped them off.

“Gordon told me this pissed him off and that he knew he was going to come back for her,” Trapp testified.

Gordon also recalled a conversation with Anaya before her death. She said she didn’t believe in God, but she did now and if he was going to kill her, “just kill me now.”

Trapp testified that Gordon admitted taking Anaya to the auto shop, and both men attacked her. She put up the most fight of all the victims, Gordon told police.

Trapp said Gordon told her they picked up Estepp the same as the others, with Cano hiding in the back seat. Back at the auto shop, she demanded to leave. When they wouldn’t let her go, she sprayed them with Mace. They beat and strangled her, Gordon told Trapp.

At one point, Gordon kissed her and said he was sorry. This infuriated Cano and he stomped on her neck, Trapp said.

Jeanne Putinier, a forensic scientist with the Orange County Crime Lab, testified that investigators said a DNA analysis indicated Gordon and Cano were likely responsible.


Gordon and Cano were under the supervision of federal probation and state parole officials throughout the period that prosecutors say they killed the four women. But the new grand jury transcripts offer little insight about the quality of their supervision.

One of the biggest issues in the case is how much Gordon and Cano’s supervisors knew about the men’s close relationship prior to their arrests in April. Sex offenders are normally prohibited from associating, but interviews and records have shown the men were close friends.

In May, federal probation officials reviewing the case said Gordon was prohibited from associating with Cano. However, a federal probation officer didn’t address the issue before the grand jury.

State parole is a different story. State corrections officials have previously declined to comment on the terms of Gordon and Cano’s release, citing their ongoing criminal case. While sex offenders are typically prohibited from associating, it’s unknown whether the duo were an exception.

Testifying before the grand jury, state parole agent Howard Baker appeared to provide a new admission in the case – saying the men violated the terms of their parole by associating – but then later said he had no firsthand information.

“I did not see their parolee field file, which would have had their conditions of parole which would have either kept them from being together or possibly could have put – allowed them to be together,” Baker said. “Based on best practice, generally sex offenders aren’t allowed to associate together.”

Phone texts

The following are text messages that prosecutors say were exchanged March 13 and March 14 between Steve Gordon and Franc Cano on the night they killed Jarrae Estepp. The Register edited the texts for length, graphic material and clarity.

10:22 p.m. Gordon: I can't hurt this cat. I just can't.

10:36 Gordon: Why is the cat's phone here?

10:40 Gordon: Are you gonna answer?

10:42 Cano: Phone is power off. No worry. Your last question, if you want, you can let her go.

10:44 Gordon: Why?

10:46 Cano: Cuz you don't want to take care of it.

10:47 Gordon: I (need) that cash.

10:48 Cano: Then go get it after you take care of her ... Or I will go get it.

10:50 Gordon: How? Walk into the hotel room?

10:52 Cano: Maybe

10:53 Gordon: What you wanna do seriously?

10:58 Cano: You're gonna get your hands dirty.

10:58 Cano: That's all

11:28 Cano: Wake up

11:44 Gordon: How?

11:48 Cano: You go down there while I watch her but first you survey the area for cams out ... . I would park the truck on the street.

11:50 Gordon: You are forgetting what I'm wearing, huh?

11:52 Cano: So don't let that stop you. I would do it if it wasn't curfew, but if I has (my parole agent). I would go.

11:54 Gordon: Well, I'm (fearful).

11:55 Cano: Then get rid of her.

11:56 Gordon: How?

11:58 Cano: Happy hand

12:00 Gordon: Can you do it?

12:01 a.m.: Cano: I thought the next one, you were going to go at it.

12:03 Gordon: I can't. Cat is beautiful.

12:08 Gordon: This is the best one yet.

12:13 Gordon: Bye-bye, Kitty

12:16 Cano: No time for that. Either Kitty walks or goes to sleep ... I am not gonna sit here (all) night and text.

12:18 Gordon: Kitty goes to sleep. Can I sleep till 2 a.m.?

12:26 Cano: Then get some water so that cat can take a hot shower since it might walk with seven lives.

12:36 Gordon: She can't leave.


How four womens' killings evolved into one case

By Keegan Kyle - The Orange County Register

July 11, 2014

Here are key events in the high-profile murder case involving two registered sex offenders accused of killing four women.

Women vanish

The disappearances of three women first gained public attention in November 2013. Family members worried the cases might be connected – each woman had ties to prostitution – and complained that Santa Ana police weren’t taking them seriously.

Police assigned three detectives to the case and assured the community that all possible steps were being taken to find the women.

“We don't believe we have a serial killer, and there is no evidence of human trafficking. Bodies have not shown up, so we haven't turned it over to homicide. We get people who go missing every day,” Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

Bodies show up

In February and March, two more women with ties to prostitution were found dead in Yorba Linda and Anaheim. Police suspected foul play in each case but the motives weren't immediately clear.

As the investigations continued, family members of the missing women and some experts aired concerns that Orange County sex workers were being targeted. But police were hesitant to publicly link the cases.

“We don't have the evidence to say they're connected,” Anaheim police spokesman Lt. Tim Schmidt said.

Tragic allegations

On Feb. 2, the Orange County Sheriff's Department arrested Larry Soo Shin, 36, on suspicion of killing the Yorba Linda woman. Shin has never been linked to the Anaheim woman or any of the three missing women.

Then, on April 11, Anaheim police arrested two registered sex offenders in connection with the Anaheim woman and the three missing Santa Ana women. Police say the offenders raped and murdered all four. Two women were mothers of young children.

A new mystery also emerged. Police asked the public to help them find a fifth unidentified victim. She was described as a petite black woman in her early 20s with multiple tattoos and possible ties to Compton. Today, she remains missing and nameless.

On the streets

Details of the suspected “serial killers” made headlines in the following weeks. Steven Gordon, 45, and Franc Cano, 27, first became registered sex offenders after child molestation convictions in 1992 and 2007 respectively.

Both were registered to live in Anaheim as transients, and according to associates and law enforcement officials, were often seen together in an industrial area. A man who worked with Gordon said the pair were best friends.

Before the arrests, the duo twice removed GPS tracking devices monitored by state parole agents and fled the state together. Authorities captured them in Alabama in 2010 and two years later in Las Vegas.

Each incident resulted in less than a year in jail, and they returned to Orange County’s streets.

Multiple supervisors

The suspects have been charged with raping and killing four women between Oct. 6, 2013, and March 14. Throughout the five-month period, each man was under state and/or federal supervision.

Cano was on state parole and federal probation throughout the period, and wore a GPS device monitored by state authorities.

Gordon was also on state parole and federal probation, and wore a state-monitored GPS device. Then, in November last year, his state parole expired and he switched to a GPS device monitored by federal authorities.

Both Gordon and Cano have pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, they could face life in prison or the death penalty. Their next scheduled court date, a preliminary hearing, is Sept. 26.

Broader concerns

As the case continues, the allegations have underscored broader concerns about sex offender supervision in the community.

Both men were transient sex offenders, which became more common after California voters approved tighter housing restrictions in 2006. Law enforcement officials say transients are harder to supervise and pose a greater risk of re-offending.

The allegations have also presented a high-profile example of the limitations of GPS monitoring. Though sometimes billed as a tool to help protect residents, the men purportedly killed four women without drawing attention of supervisors.

Gordon and Cano were arrested after tech-savvy detectives at the Anaheim Police Department thought to compare GPS monitoring data and crime scene information. Their initiative led police to Cano and then to Gordon.

Federal response

In a May 28 report, federal probation officials said Gordon and Cano's supervisors had properly followed internal policies, but admitted the case revealed several areas of possible improvement.

The report urged federal probation to explore proactively comparing offenders' GPS data. Though Gordon and Cano were prohibited from being together, probation officials never used the data to detect their gatherings.

Interviews with those who knew Gordon and Cano suggest the duo routinely violated their probation by being together. They ate, mingled near dumpsters and sometimes even slept in the same truck.

In response to the May report, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, directed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to periodically monitor federal probation’s efforts to upgrade GPS. Issa is the committee’s chairman.

State probes

Two state investigations remain ongoing. The first is an internal review by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation evaluating how well parole agents supervised Gordon and Cano. Department officials say the review is a personnel matter and its findings won’t be publicly released under employee privacy laws.

Also, the California Office of the Inspector General is reviewing broader sex offender questions at the request of state Senate President Darrell Steinberg. In the coming months, the office will report on the impact of housing restrictions on sex offenders and the effectiveness of GPS monitoring.


California police linked murder suspects to killings via GPS trackers

Associated Press

April 15, 2014

Convicted sex offenders Steven Gordon and Franc Cano, who wore GPS trackers, accused of raping and killing at least four women.

Two convicted sex offenders dutifully checked in with police every month and wore their GPS trackers around the clock — the rules of parole that are designed to tip off authorities if a freed felon backslides.

Yet for at least two months last fall, authorities claim, Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon were raping and killing at least four women — and probably a fifth — in the seedy prostitution hangouts of Orange County.

It was data from their GPS trackers — along with cellphone records from the victims and other evidence — that helped investigators link them to the killings, police said.

“That was one of the investigative tools we used to put the case together,” Anaheim police chief Raul Quezada said at a news conference Monday.

Cano, 27, and Gordon, 45, were arrested by investigators on Friday. Each was charged Monday with four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four felony counts of rape.

If convicted, they could face a minimum sentence of life without parole or the death penalty. They were being held without bail and expected to be arraigned Tuesday.

The men had known each other at least since 2012, when they cut off their GPS trackers and, using fake names, fled to Las Vegas, where they stayed at the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino for two weeks before they were rearrested, according to documents filed in US District Court in Nevada.

While out on parole, police believe the men killed three women in Santa Ana last October and November and an another woman in Anaheim earlier this year. All had histories of prostitution.

Quezada said authorities were confident that there was at least a fifth victim and perhaps more.

Investigators “put a stop to a serial killing that would likely have continued beyond this point,” district attorney Tony Rackauckas said.

The department has contacted other places with missing-persons cases across the country.

Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas, arrived in Santa Ana the first week of October for a court hearing on four misdemeanor charges of prostitution and loitering to commit prostitution. Her mother said she stopped responding to her text messages soon after she arrived in Santa Ana.

She checked in to a Costa Mesa hotel but never paid the bill nor checked out, and her belongings were found there.

Josephine Monique Vargas, 34, was last seen October 24 after leaving a family birthday party in Santa Ana to go to a store.

Martha Anaya, 28, asked her boyfriend to pick up their five-year-old daughter so she could work on November 12, then stopped responding to his messages later that night. She had been planning a birthday party for her daughter.

Santa Ana investigators didn’t realize that they were looking for murder victims at first, police chief Carlos Rojas said.

Instead, police considered them missing persons. Investigators searched a canyon, examined the women’s cellphone records, alerted hospitals, put the word out on social media and even checked motels they were known to frequent but without success in finding them.

Then, on March 14, the naked body of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, was found on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant. That was the key that broke the case, authorities said.

In the weeks before the discovery, Estepp had become a regular on a strip of Beach Boulevard in Anaheim long known for prostitution. Estepp had “a similar profile to our victims; we were able to ... move forward,” Rojas said.

Investigators planned to search for the bodies of the three Santa Ana victims, he said. Cano and Gordon each served time after being convicted in separate cases of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14.

Gordon was convicted in 1992 and has a 2002 kidnapping conviction, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office. Cano’s conviction dates to 2008, prosecutors said. After their Las Vegas escapade, Cano and Gordon pleaded guilty to failure to register as a sex offender. They were ordered to provide DNA samples and have their computers monitored by federal agents, according to the federal documents, which were first obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The men also checked in with Anaheim police every 30 days, as required, and provided updated photos, fingerprints and addresses, Anaheim police Lt Bob Dunn said. In fact, both men checked in earlier this month, Dunn said. Cano was wearing a state-issued ankle monitor and Gordon was wearing a federal GPS device, he said.



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