(FOX 11 / CNS) Arraignment was postponed today for two registered sex offenders accused of raping and killing four women in Anaheim and Santa Ana.
Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, are charged with four counts each of murder and forcible rape, with investigators saying the defendants were linked to the crimes thanks in part to the GPS monitors they were wearing at the time. The charges include special circumstance allegations that could lead to the death penalty. They remain jailed without bail pending their arraignment, which was reset for May 19.
The special circumstance allegations are murder during the commission of a rape, multiple murders and lying in wait. Police said Monday they believe the pair had a fifth victim, but there was no immediate word on her identity or the circumstances of her death.
"We're confident that there's at least one additional victim and possibly more," Anaheim police Chief Raul Quezada said.
Cano was convicted in 2008 of lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14 and Gordon has two convictions for lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14 in 1992 as well as kidnapping his estranged wife in 2002, Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said.
Both men are eligible for the death penalty and at least life in prison without the possibility of parole, Yellin said. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said a decision has not been made whether to seek the death penalty.
The men are both registered sex offenders who pleaded guilty last year to failing to register in Nevada and were sentenced to time-served in custody, according to federal court documents. They both had their cases sent back to Orange County. One defendant was on probation and the other was on parole, Yellin said.
The two are friends who were transients, Yellin said. They were living out of their cars and a recreational vehicle, Yellin said. Police began the murder investigation March 14, when the body of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, a 21-year-old from Oklahoma, was found by employees of a recycling center in the 1100 block of North Blue Gum Street, according to Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn. Estepp had a record of street prostitution and other minor crimes.
Santa Ana police contacted Anaheim police after Estepp's body was found to share information about three missing women, Quezada said. Both agencies teamed up with help from federal and county investigators, he said. "It was a lot of intuition that paid off,'' Yellin said. "The intuition then compiled with the use of GPS to our advantage,'' and helped lead to the arrests, Yellin said.
Both defendants were wearing GPS monitors and investigators correlated their movements with the cellphone records of the missing women, Yellin said. All four women had been known to frequent a rough Santa Ana neighborhood known for street prostitution and drug sales, police said.
Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas was last seen in Santa Ana Oct. 6, 2013, Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn said. Josephine Vargas, 34, was last seen in Santa Ana Oct. 24, 2013 and Martha Anaya, 28, was last seen in Santa Ana Nov. 12, 2013. Vargas and Anaya were Santa Ana residents, Dunn said.
Cano was arrested about 6 p.m. Friday in the 5100 block of East La Palma Avenue and Gordon was arrested about an hour later in the 3100 block of East La Palma Avenue, according to Dunn.
Detectives were asking anyone with information about the four cases, or who believes the suspects may have been in contact with other missing people, to call Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS (6227) or go to www.occrimestoppers.org.
Tipsters can remain anonymous, Dunn said.
From Phil Shuman:
One victim, a 21-year-old from Oklahoma named Jarrae, was found, nude, raped and murdered, on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim recycling center last month.
She was working the streets as a prostitute in a less than desirable section of Santa Ana. It's believe she has been dumped in a trash bin and a truck brought her, unknowingly, to that undignified end. Three other young woman, also said to be working on the streets are also presumed dead, their bodies have not yet been found.
It's possible they suffered similar fates. Landfills will be searched. Two transients living on the streets in the O. C. have been arrested and charged with four counts of murder with special circumstance, making them eligible for the death penalty if convicted. In a bizarre twist that is perhaps too ridiculous to believe, the two suspects were still wearing their court ordered GPS trackable electronic ankle monitoring bracelets, as ordered by courts as part of their probation as convicted sex offenders.
Police wouldn't go into too much detail at a big afternoon press conference, but the working theory is that the investigators were able to match up GPS tracking data from the suspects monitoring devices to the last known locations of the victims using their cell phone triangulation data. It sounds complicated but it isn't. Good for those bad guys that they were dumb enough to allegedly commit horrific crimes wearing trackable technology. Outside the Anaheim Police Department I spoke with the mother of that 21-year-old, Jarrae, here to claim her daughters remains. "This has just been horrible, horrible for my family and me''. That would be an understatement.
At least she has a body to bury, at least three other families are still in an unimaginable agony waiting for word of the fate of their daughters. And police strongly dispute allegations by some of those three women's families that this case was less than a priority for them. In fact Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas detailed the efforts his department made to track down the three missing young women including going on TV, checking missing persons, using social media, canvassing hospitals, even checking with ICE to see if they left the country. It's just a sad sad story that makes the point, as if it needs making again, that the streets can be dangerous and there are bad people out there ready to prey on the vulnerable.