Police say the GPS devices, used in the supervision of two southern California convicts during the rapes and murders of four area women, worked as intended. The statement comes as a shock to family members of the victims, who wonder why that same supervision system was not able to prevent the crimes in the first place. Jodi Michelle Pier-Estepp, mother of the Anaheim area victim, feels that if the repeat offenders were monitored more closely, the women would still be alive. Her daughter, Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, was the woman whose body was discovered at a trash-sorting facility and the reason the authorities were able to piece the crimes together. Questions are now being brought forth as to the effectiveness of GPS supervision and the devices that are made to dissuade criminals from repeat offenses.
Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon had both been assigned to ankle bracelets and were wearing them during the rapes and murders of Kianna Jackson, age 20, Josephine Monique Vargas, age 34 and 28-year-old Martha Anaya. Police believe there is also a fifth victim, possibly more. The pair were on separate supervision while wearing the bracelets. Cano’s was a state-issued bracelet, while Gordon wore a federal one. However, Cano was formerly discharged from supervision before being connected to the cases.
So why is it that police claim the GPS devices worked properly, in the midst of four women being assaulted and murdered? Luis Patino is a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the agency responsible for monitoring Cano. He said the GPS monitor has no way to distinguish whether a crime is being committed. Therefore, the use of ankle bracelets does not always deter crimes. Pier-Estepp, clearly fighting tears outside of a Santa Ana courtroom on Tuesday, disagreed with the statement. Her question? Why were the two men allowed to be around each other long enough to commit murder?
The sentiments shared by Pier-Estepp beg the question: Is something flawed in the way we monitor convicted criminals? Larry Yellin, Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney stated he had minimal information on whether state parole and federal probation agents were watching the devices as they should. The constraints of the devices are set by the agency that oversees each offender. Over 100,000 criminals are tracked by ankle bracelets nationally and the bracelets send out numerous alerts everyday. The job of sorting those alerts falls upon over-loaded parole and probation officers. It takes law enforcement days, in many instances, to even notice when offenders have tampered with the GPS bracelets.
The string of assaults and murders began last fall when women started disappearing from areas known for prostitution in Santa Ana and Anaheim. The key to unlocking the case was authorities’ discovery of the body of 21-year-old, Estepp and police are planning to search for the bodies of the other three victims. Gordon and Cano both served time in separate cases, where the two were convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14. In 2012, the two men cut off their GPS devices and used fake names to hideout at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas and it was not until two weeks later that authorities found and arrested the pair.
In the current cases, the men are being charged with four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four felony counts of rape. Police say they are pleased that the GPS devices worked as intended, as they were able to place the convicts at the scenes during all four murders. At the minimum, the offenders face life-sentences without parole. At the max, the death penalty. As for the broken-hearted families of the victims, they are hoping police will make changes, in what many feel are flawed state and federal supervision systems.
by Melissa A. White-Jantzen
Los Angeles Times