Originally posted at 3:14 p.m. April 15, 2014. Edited with new details.
By PAUL ANDERSON
City News Service
The mother of one of four women who were raped and killed, allegedly by a pair of registered sex offenders wearing GPS monitors, lashed out at authorities today, saying if the defendants had been properly monitored the victims might still be alive.
"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," Jodi Pier-Estepp said after a court appearance by Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, who are each charged with four counts of murder and forcible rape.
"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," she said.
Pier-Estepp said it made her "sick" to see the men in court. The body of her daughter, Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, of Oklahoma, was found March 14 by employees of a recycling center in the 1100 block of North Blue Gum Street in Anaheim.
The discovery led to an investigation that linked her death to the killings of three other women, according to police and prosecutors.
The state Department of Corrections officials issued a statement saying that while they sympathize with the victims and their families, "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," according to DOC. "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."
During today's brief court appearance, arraignment was postponed until May 19 for Cano and Gordon, who are both facing a possible death sentence. The charges against them include special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a rape, multiple murders and lying in wait.
Anaheim police today issued details of a potential fifth victim, who is believed to be a petite black woman in her early 20s, with black hair and multiple tattoos, Lt. Bob Dunn said. She was likely working as a prostitute and has ties to Compton, Dunn added.
The victim was last seen between Feb. 14-16 near Katella and Orangewood avenues or Beach Boulevard north of Katella, Dunn said. She checked into an area motel but did not check out, leaving her belongings, Dunn said.
Cano was convicted in 2008 of lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14, while 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, Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said.
The men, both registered sex offenders, 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. Both were on federal probation and Cano was on state parole, Yellin said.
The two men had cut off their GPS devices before traveling to Las Vegas, officials said. They were put on lifetime supervised release and were again tracked with GPS monitors. Gordon, whose case was returned to Santa Ana federal court last August, had appeared at status hearings in November and March 17 and was due to return to court this November.
Cano, who was on a state-issued GPS monitor, was put on parole on Oct. 19, 2009, and records show "three returns to parole in 2010 and 2011," according to the Department of Corrections.
Gordon, who was on a federally issued GPS monitor, was sent to prison for three years Sept. 1, 1992, for a Los Angeles County conviction for lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14. He was paroled on Dec. 13, 1993, and discharged three years later, according to the Department of Corrections.
Gordon was sentenced to 10 years in prison from a Riverside County case on April 9, 2002, for kidnapping his estranged wife. He was released to parole on Feb. 27, 2010, and discharged from parole on Nov. 9 of last year, according to the Department of Corrections.
After Estepp's body was discovered at the recycling facility, Santa Ana police contacted Anaheim investigators to share information about three other missing women.
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.
The bodies of Jackson, Vargas and Anaya have never been found.
Yellin said Cano and Gordon are friends and transients who were living out of their cars and a recreational vehicle. With the help of federal and county officials, investigators were able to compile information from the duo's GPS tracking devices and match them to the movement of the victims, in part through the women's cell phone records, authorities said.
"It was a lot of intuition that paid off," Yellin 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.
Police said all four victims had been known to frequent a rough Santa Ana neighborhood known for street prostitution and drug sales. Estepp had a record of street prostitution and other minor crimes.
Pier-Estepp said, however, that her daughter had a "beautiful soul" and was "the life of the party."
"She made you laugh, she was very independent," Pier-Estepp said. "She was a very good mother."
Pier-Estepp said she was grateful that at least her daughter's death "has brought closure for the other mothers."
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.