Franc Cano (left) and Steven Dean Gordon. Photos via Megan’s Law site
Franc Cano (left) and Steven Dean Gordon. Photos via Megan’s Law site

A defendant in the murders and rapes of four prostitutes in Orange County invoked his constitutional right Friday to avoid incriminating himself in the trial of his co-defendant, who was trying to get his friend to testify in his defense.

Franc Cano, 30, was brought to court Friday by co-defendant Steven Dean Gordon, 47, who is representing himself in his death penalty trial. Prosecutors are also seeking the ultimate punishment for Cano, who will be tried separately.

“You know me?” Gordon asked Cano, who did not reply and deferred to his attorney, Chuck Hasse of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office.

“I’m invoking Mr. Cano’s right not to testify,” Hasse said.

“I think that’s all we need to do,” said Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue as he excused Cano from the courtroom.

In his opening statement of the trial, Gordon declared multiple times, “only cowards hide behind their attorneys,” an apparent reference to his fellow registered sex offender with whom he used to spend time.

On Thursday, Gordon called Cano’s mother and father to testify, but they recalled little of the relationship their son had with the defendant.

Gordon also sparred with parole agent Felicia Johnson, who supervised Gordon and Cano until 2011, but she repeatedly emphasized that she could not recall details the defendant was seeking because it had been years since she monitored him. Gordon was especially irked and demanded an explanation for a charge of rape on a rap sheet document, but Johnson said she did not have any specific explanation for it.

Johnson testified that in late 2011 some homeless sex offenders were allowed to sleep near each other in a sort of buddy system because a serial killer was targeting transients.

In his opening statement to jurors, Gordon appeared to lay the blame for the killings on Cano.

The two are charged with killing 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 20- year-old Kianna Jackson, 34-year-old Josephine Vargas and 28-year-old Martha Anaya.

Investigators recovered Estepp’s body on March 14, 2014, at an Anaheim recycling facility. Before that, Santa Ana detectives were stumped about the whereabouts of the three missing women, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin.

Jackson was the first to be reported missing — on Oct. 6, 2013 — when her mother could not reach her anymore on the phone, Yellin said.

Next to be reported missing was Vargas on Oct. 24, 2013, Yellin said.

Anaya went missing Nov. 12, 2013.

— City News Service

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