Police: OC murder suspects wore GPS devices during killings (updated)

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Update 4:42 p.m. Police investigators say two suspects in the murders of four women in Orange County were wearing GPS anklets at the time of the crimes. 

Anaheim and Santa Ana police linked suspects Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon to the disappearances of the four women because they were wearing GPS anklets. 

Both men are registered sex offenders and were required to wear the GPS monitoring devices. 

Using data from the anklets, police determined the suspects were in the vicinity where the four women where last seen. 

Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas said when police found the body of 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp March 14th in an Anaheim trash facility, that led to the connection between the three other women and the suspects.

Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said the GPS devices were attached to the suspects during the commission of the alleged murders. 

He said there may be more victims.

"Based on the evidence collected, based on information we have, we are confident there's one additional victim and possibly more," said Quezada.

The chief did not elaborate, citing the on-going investigation. Quezada also said "it is too early to determine if the three women [not yet found] will be found in Orange County or elsewhere."

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas credited the work of the Anaheim and Santa Ana police departments in cracking the case.

"They put a stop to a serial killing that would have likely continued beyond this point," said Rackauckas.

The string of disappearances started last October when two Santa Ana women, Kianna Jackson and Josephine Vargas were reported missing.A third woman, Martha Anaya, was reported missing in November. 

Cano and Gordon have each been charged with four counts of murder and four counts of forcible rape. The two are scheduled to be arraigned at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Santa Ana. 

Rackauckas said if the two suspects are convicted, they face life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Anaheim Police Lt. Bob Dunn said the two registered sex offenders and parolees were required to check in every 30 days with the Anaheim Police Department. He said the pair's last check-in was earlier this month. 

Dunn said Cano was supervised by the California Department of Corrections and Gordon was under federal supervision. 

"Within a week of finding the body of Estepp, the two suspects can up on our radar," said Dunn. 

—Ed Joyce

Update 3:00 p.m. 

Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, both of Anaheim, have each been charged with four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four felony counts of forcible rape, according to a statement from the Orange County District's Attorney Office. 

Cano has a prior 2008 strike conviction for lewd and lascivious acts on child under 14. Gordon has two prior strike convictions for lewd and lascivious acts on child under 14 in 1992 and kidnapping in 2002. If convicted, the defendants face a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole and are eligible for the death penalty.

Cano and Gordon are being held without bail. They are expected to be arraigned 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Santa Ana. 

The Anaheim Police Department, Santa Ana Police Department and Orange County District Attorney's Office are expected to hold a press conference Monday to discuss updates in this case.

—KPCC staff

Update 6:41 a.m. 

Court documents indicate two registered sex offenders were supposed to be closely monitored when they allegedly killed four women in Southern California, including one whose body was found at a trash sorting facility last month and three who disappeared last Fall.

Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, were arrested Friday following a joint investigation by police in the neighboring cities of Anaheim and Santa Ana.

Authorities said the probe was launched after the naked body of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, was found March 14 on a conveyor belt used to separate recyclables from trash at the Anaheim facility. The probe led detectives from both cities to connect the men to her slaying, and the disappearance of three women who frequented a Santa Ananeighborhood known for drug dealing and prostitution.

Cano and Gordon were ordered to register as sex offenders after being convicted in separate cases of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14.

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the men have known each other since at least April 2012 when they cut off their GPS tracking devices and fled to Nevada, using the aliases Dexter McCoy and Joseph Madrid to travel. They stayed at a Las Vegas hotel for about two weeks until they were arrested.

Federal court records show they pleaded guilty to failing to register as sex offenders and were ordered to provide DNA samples and have their computers monitored by federal agents. Dunn said the men, listed as transients with no steady addresses, also had to check in with Anaheim police every 30 days.

It wasn't clear how the men could have gone on the alleged killing spree without being detected. Police didn't provide further details of the investigation pending a news conference planned for Monday afternoon.

The string of disappearances in Santa Ana began in October after Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas arrived in the city 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.

Josephine Monique Vargas, 34, was last seen Oct. 24 after leaving a family birthday party to go to the store. The Times said Vargas had a rough past that at times involved drug use and prostitution, but her mother said she had been trying to better her life.

Martha Anaya, 28, asked her boyfriend to pick up their daughter so she could work on Nov. 12, but stopped responding to his messages later that night. Like the other women, police said she had a history of prostitution.

Estepp had become a regular on a strip of Beach Boulevard in Anaheim long known for prostitution in the weeks before she was found dead.

Dunn said it was unclear whether the women were targeted because of their ties to prostitution.

Though no other suspects were thought to be involved, he said detectives were continuing to look for more potential victims across the country.

—AP

Sunday:

Two men have been arrested in connection with the murder of a young woman and the suspected killing of three others in Orange County. 

Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, both of Anaheim, were arrested Friday and charged with four murders, Santa Ana police said in a statement. 

Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, was one of their alleged victims. A resident of Oklahoma, she had been seen in Santa Ana shortly before her body was found at an Anaheim recycling facility on March 14. That discovery set off a joint investigation between the Santa Ana and Anaheim police departments that led to the arrests of the two men, Santa Ana police said.

Three other women who have gone missing were identified as Kianna Jackson, 20; Josephine Vargas, 34; and Martha Anaya, 28. Jackson was a resident of Las Vegas, police said, who was last seen in Santa Ana in October. Vargas and Anaya were both residents of Santa Ana who went missing in October and November respectively.

Santa Ana police say they'll hold a press conference on Monday to discuss the arrests. Anyone with information is asked to call Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP or see their website.

— KPCC staff

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