GPS-tracked sex offender to stand trial in serial killings

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Opening statements are expected Wednesday in the trial of a sex offender accused of raping and killing four women during a murderous spree in Orange County while wearing a GPS tracking device.

Steven Dean Gordon, 47, of Anaheim is due in an Orange County courtroom on four counts of murder and four counts of rape.

Gordon is representing himself at trial. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Gordon and registered sex offender Franc Cano, 30, were both wearing GPS devices for prior offenses when they raped and killed four women in 2013 and 2014, authorities said.

One of the women’s bodies was found at a recycling plant. Investigators linked her death to the disappearance of three other women also allegedly picked up by the pair.

During grand jury proceedings, authorities said that Gordon confessed in graphic detail to picking up the women in his car with Cano, raping them behind an Anaheim paint and body shop where the men camped and killing them.

But Gordon’s confession won’t be allowed during the trial, said Larry Yellin, senior deputy district attorney for Orange County. Yellin said the judge excluded it because Gordon told police he didn’t want to talk before launching into the detailed account of the murders.

Cano, who is expected to be tried separately, is due in court later this week to set a trial date, Yellin said.

Yellin declined to comment on the case ahead of opening statements.

During the investigation, authorities identified the victim at the recycling plant as Jarrae Nykkole Estepp from the tattoo on the back of her neck. They searched a database of sex offenders wearing tracking devices and found Cano had been in the locations of all four women when they vanished.

They focused on Gordon after a search of Cano’s cellphone showed the men texted constantly. The night Estepp died, a message from Gordon’s phone to Cano’s read, “this is the best one yet.”

DNA samples from Estepp’s body matched Cano’s and Gordon’s genetic material, authorities said.

Authorities believe Cano and Gordon have known each other since at least 2010, when Cano cut off his GPS device and fled to Alabama, where the men were arrested. In 2012, they cut off the devices again and took a bus to Las Vegas using fake names. They were arrested two weeks later.

Both men are registered sex offenders and were convicted in separate cases of lewd and lascivious acts on a child.