Two registered sex offenders accused of raping and killing four women in Anaheim and Santa Ana were charged today with multiple counts of murder and forcible rape.
The charges against Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, include special circumstance allegations that could lead to the death penalty. Both men are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Santa Ana, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin.
Investigators suspect there may be a fifth victim.
Cano and Gordon were charged with four counts each of murder and forcible rape. The special circumstance allegations are murder during the commission of a rape, multiple murders and lying in wait.
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, Yellin said.
Both men are eligible for the death penalty and at least life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted at trial, Yellin said. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters at a news conference this afternoon that 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, and 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, Anaheim Police Department Chief Raul Quezada said.
Both agencies teamed up with help from federal and county investigators, Quezada said.
"It was a lot of intuition that paid off," Yellin said. "The intuition then compiled with the use of GPS to our advantage" 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.
--City News Service