See the update at the end of this post on the arraignment delay of two registered sex offenders accused of raping and murdering at least four women in Orange County.
ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 15, 7:34 A.M.: The GPS devices parolees Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon wore played a role in implicating them in the murders of four women, being suspected in the slaying of a fifth and possibly more, according to authorities.
At a press conference in Anaheim Monday afternoon, Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said the GPS signals, coupled with evidence given off by victim cell phones, led investigators to suspect the registered sex offenders.
Cano, 27, and Gordon, 45, obviously understood the threat the GPS trackers posed. The younger man was on parole and the older man probation for separate convictions for lewd and lascivious acts with children under 14. They were required to wear ankle bracelets but cut them off in May 2012 before together boarding a Greyhound bus to Las Vegas under fake names. (Cano was Joseph Madrid, Gordon was Dexter McCoy). After spending two weeks at Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, the pair were arrested by federal agents.
The men went on to check in with Anaheim police every 30 days, as required, and provided updated photos, fingerprints and addresses, Anaheim Police spokesman Lt. Robert Dunn told the Associated Press. It is believed Cano and Gordon wore the ankle bracelets while the women were killed.
Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas, came to Santa Ana for a court hearing on four misdemeanor charges of prostitution and loitering to commit prostitution in October, but she stopped responding to her mother's text messages soon after she arrived in Orange County.
Josephine Monique Vargas, 34, of Santa Ana, was last seen Oct. 24 after leaving a family birthday party to go to a store. She had been known to frequent an area of Santa Ana notorious for drug use and prostitution.
Martha Anaya, 28, of Santa Ana, asked her boyfriend to pick up their 5-year-old daughter so she could work on Nov. 12 then stopped responding to his messages later that night. She'd frequented the same area of Santa Ana.
The naked body of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, of Oklahoma, was found March 14 on the conveyor belt of an Anaheim rubbish and recycling facility. A couple weeks earlier, she had become a regular on a strip of Beach Boulevard in Anaheim long known for prostitution.
At the news conference, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas mentioned that an anonymous tip had them searching a canyon area for the body of one of the women reported missing in his city, but the information turned out to be “not accurate.”
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait had opened the press conference by expressing sympathy for the victims' families, and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas echoed the sentiment and noted “all the families are very distraught and concerned.”
He credited the police departments with having conducted “a very fine investigation” and “an example of collaborative policing.”
“They put a stop to a serial killing that would have likely continued beyond this point,” Rackauckas said.
The collaborating is not over as Quezada disclosed investigators are confident there was at least a fifth victim, if not more. His department has contacted other places with missing persons cases across the country.
Cano and Gordon, who also has a conviction for kidnapping on his rap sheet, were each charged Monday with four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four felony counts of rape.
The minimum sentence with convictions for each would be life without the possibility of parole, although Rackauckas' office can also seek the death penalty. Held without bail, the alleged murderers are expected to be arraigned today.
UPDATE, APRIL 15, 12:42 P.M.: The arraignment of Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon was postponed today to May 19.
The pair, who had been living in their cars and a recreational vehicle, will remain jailed without bail until at least then.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said a decision has not yet been made whether to seek the death penalty against the men.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.