Homeless sex offender who killed 4 O.C. women is sentenced to
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
Testimony will continue through the week. If convicted, Gordon
faces the death penalty.
Court: Sex offender accused of killing 4 women provided details to
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
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
“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?”
“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 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
“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
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.
“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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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,”
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.”
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
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
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.
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
“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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.