The transcript of a grand jury proceeding released Monday contains the chilling confession of a California serial killer who, along with an accomplice, murdered five women. The suspect, Steven Dean Gordon, spent over 13 hours with a detective going over the process by which he and his accomplice, Franc Cano, selected five random women who they then raped and strangled before discarding their bodies in garbage cans. The murderous spree by the men, who are both convicted sex offenders, began in November of 2013 and ended in March of 2014.
Grand jury testimony by the investigator who conducted the interview with Gordon indicates that he was very particular about the details of his crimes being correctly recorded. When she did not question Gordon about each woman in the order in which they were killed, he grew upset. Speaking to the California grand jury, Trapp said that Gordon had actually stopped her from speaking in order to tell her to “talk about them in order.” She added that he had also rearranged photos of the victims so that they would line up in order of which they were murdered. In addition, Gordon himself made the detective, Julissa Trapp of the Anaheim, California, Police Department, aware of one more victim about which the police had not known.
Both Gordon and Cano were homeless, convicted sex offenders and both were wearing court-ordered electronic tracking devices on their ankles for convictions (in separate cases) involving sexual acts with children under 14 years of age. Gordon was found guilty in 1992 and also had been convicted in 2002 of kidnapping. Cano was found guilty in 2008.
In his descriptions of the crimes, Gordon told officials that while Cano stayed hidden in the back seat, he would pick up the women in his car under the pretense of paying them for sex. Once inside, the women were overpowered and taken to Boss Body and Paint in Anaheim, California, where Gordon occasionally did odd jobs and where his RV, in which the suspects camped, was parked. The two men would then rape the women. When the sexual assault was over, Cano would strangle the women while Gordon, in an attempt “to get the air out faster,” would punch them in the abdomen. Gordon would later tell Trapp that “once he started, he couldn’t stop.”
Their last victim, Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, was almost spared by Gordon due to her beauty, but after she said she would not remain with the two men, Gordon decided to kill her, too. Estepp put up a fight and even used mace on him, but Gordon still wanted to keep her alive and with them. Once she lost consciousness, Gordon attempted to sneak a kiss without Cano noticing. Cano became very angry and stomped on Estepp’s neck, killing her. She was then dumped into a trash can.
Estepp’s nude body was discovered on March 14 at an Anaheim, California, recycling center on a conveyor belt. Authorities were able to identify her due to a tattoo on her body which bore her mother’s name. Her body would eventually lead police to make the connection between her and the other three victims, who had been found in Santa Ana, California, and would play a part in helping them solve the four murders.
A tube of caulk found with her body led detectives to Boss Body and Paint, and the exact bin in which her body had been dumped. Officials then went through a registry of California sex offenders to identify those currently equipped with tracking anklets. Using cellphone records of the victims, they realized that Cano had been in the area of all four victims when they disappeared as well as by the garbage receptacle in question afterwards.
Investigators were able to obtain DNA from Cano from gum and a water bottle which he had thrown out. After analyzing Cano’s cellphone records, they discovered that he and Gordon were in constant contact via text message. Both DNA from Cano and from Gordon matched samples taken from Estepp’s body.
Two nearby landfills were searched by police in an unfruitful attempt to locate the bodies of the other three victims who have been identified. They are 20-year-old Kianna Jackson of Las Vegas, 28-year-old Martha Anaya and 34-year-old Josephine Vargas. Both Anaya and Vargas are from Santa Ana, California. During his interview with Trapp, Gordon said the reason he killed Jackson is because her first name was the same as his daughter’s and hearing that “triggered him.”
Authorities surmise that the two men have been acquainted since 2010 if not before, as it was in this year that Cano removed his tracking device and escaped to Alabama. Both he and Gordon were arrested in that state. In 2012, both men cut off their GPS devices and used false names to travel to Las Vegas by bus. They were arrested by federal agents just two weeks later.
After hearing the evidence, four indictments of murder were returned by the grand jury against 45-year-old Gordon and his accomplice, 28-year-old Frank Cano. No indictment was handed down in the case of the still-unidentified fifth victim. Both Cano and Gordon have entered not guilty pleas. Their respective attorneys, Houman Fakhimi and Denise Gragg, did not respond to requests by The Associated Press. If convicted in a California court, both men could receive the death penalty as punishment.
By Jennifer Pfalz