Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A grand jury on Thursday indicted two registered sex offenders on charges of raping and killing four women in Anaheim and Santa Ana.

Steven Dean Gordon, 45, and Franc Cano, 28, both of Anaheim, were indicted on four counts of murder with special circumstances of killing during a rape, kidnapping, lying in wait and multiple murders, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin. The defendants are also charged with four counts of forcible rape.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ office has not decided whether to seek the death penalty, Yellin said.

Prosecutors presented 16 witnesses over three days of testimony before the grand jury, Yellin said. By presenting the case to a grand jury instead of holding a preliminary hearing, prosecutors hope to get the case to trial more quickly.

When Gordon and Cano were charged earlier this year questions were raised about the oversight of the defendants, who were supposed to be outfitted with GPS monitors at the time of the killings.

Cano was convicted in 2008 of lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14, while Gordon has two convictions from 1992 for lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14, as well as kidnapping his estranged wife in 2002, 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 on Sept. 1, 1992, on 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 on April 9, 2002, for kidnapping his estranged wife in Riverside County. He was released on Feb. 27, 2010, and discharged from parole on Nov. 9 of last year, according to the Department of Corrections.

After 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp’s body was discovered at a recycling facility in Anaheim on March 14, 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 on Oct. 6, 2013, Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn said.

Josephine Vargas, 34, was last seen in Santa Ana on Oct. 24, 2013, and Martha Anaya, 28, was last seen in Santa Ana on 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 transients who were living out of their cars and a recreational vehicle. With the help of federal and county officials, investigators compiled 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.

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.

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