The U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services agency is being sued for lax oversight that apparently allowed two sex offenders wearing GPS ankle monitors to rape and kill a young woman whose body was found naked on the conveyer belt of an Anaheim trash sorting facility.
Jodi Pier-Estepp also filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that alleged the state's parole agents were negligent in their monitoring of Steven Dean Gordon and Franc Cano.
A jury on Dec. 21 recommended the death penalty for Gordon, who is due to be sentenced on Feb. 3, while Cano still faces trial for the murders of four prostitutes in 2013 and 2014. The bodies of Kianna Jackson, 20, Josephine Vargas, 34, and Martha Anaya, 28, have never been found.
Ironically, after the body of 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp was discovered at an east Anaheim recycling business on March 14, 2014, it was the data from Cano and Gordon's GPS monitors that showed they had been in close proximity to the locations of cell phone pings from some of the last places the four victims had been.
The data also showed the sex offenders had been in close proximity to one another, a violation of their respective paroles, notes Jodi Pier-Estepp's wrongful-death lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana this week.
As the Weekly previously reported, the grieving mother lashed out at authorities over their alleged lax monitoring of Cano and Gordon as she stood outside an April 15, 2014, court hearing for the pair.
"It makes me appalled that the state of California had tracking devices on two men ... (and) if they were monitored correctly maybe none of this would have happened,'' Pier-Estepp told reporters at the time. "There's no excuse, no reason the state can give me why these two men were able to be around each other long enough to commit murder.''
But the California Department of Corrections (DOC) gave this excuse anyway: "GPS monitoring cannot always deter crimes. It is a tool that shows us where a monitored offender has been and it can place them at the scene of a crime. A monitor has no way to detect whether a crime is being committed.
"GPS monitors are not designed to alert us when one sex offender comes into contact with another. ... Determined criminals will go to great lengths to commit crimes and we cannot blame our crime-fighting tools for criminals' actions."
Cano was convicted in 2008 of lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14, was put on parole on Oct. 19, 2009, and had "three returns to parole in 2010 and 2011," according to the DOC.
Gordon was convicted in Los Angeles County for lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14 in 1992 and sentenced to three years in prison that September. He was paroled on Dec. 13, 1993, and discharged three years later, according to the DOC.
The agency also revealed he was convicted in Riverside County for kidnapping his estranged wife in 2002 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on April 9, 2002. He was released to parole on Feb. 27, 2010, and discharged from parole on Nov. 9, 2013.
Cano and Gordon cut off their GPS devices before traveling to Las Vegas, where they were apprehended after a couple weeks.
Both pleaded guilty in 2013 to failing to register as sex offenders in Nevada and were sentenced to time-served in custody, according to federal court documents.
They were also put on lifetime supervised release—both were on federal probation and Cano was also on state parole—that had them again being tracked with GPS monitors up through the time of the Orange County serial killings.
The slayings led to “Illusion of Safety,” Keegan Kyle's Orange County Register investigation into the use of GPS monitors by law enforcement (as well as Reg crime reporter Sean Emery's recent story that tipped me off to Pier-Estepp's lawsuit).
Her complaint alleges the DOC and U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services used defective monitors, did not communicate with one another and failed to properly staff, train or monitor their officers.
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Besides the federal agency, five unnamed agents are targeted in the suit.
As Emery reports, state parole and federal probation agents testified during Gordon’s trial that they did not compare (nor see a need to compare) data on Cano and Gordon’s movements.
Gordon, who represented himself, told a U.S. probation and parole officer that if the agent and his colleagues had been paying proper attention to the data, Estepp would still be alive.
“Because of your negligence," the serial killer added, "she is not.”