SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) – A sex offender was convicted Thursday of murdering four Orange County prostitutes in a case that was cracked in part by the GPS monitor he was wearing during the killings as a result of his earlier felony conviction.
Steven Dean Gordon, 47, acted as his own attorney at his trial, admitting his involvement in most of the abduction murders, although he insisted his co-defendant, 30-year-old Franc Cano, was the main culprit in hunting down and killing the four victims.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin, however, argued that Gordon was the “manipulator” and the “big brother” in the relationship between the convicted sex offenders.
Cano, also a convicted sex offender, is awaiting trial. Gordon’s case will now shift to penalty phase, during which jurors will recommend either the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The penalty phase of the case will begin Monday.
Gordon was convicted of murdering 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 20-year-old Kianna Jackson, 34-year-old Josephine Vargas and 28-year-old Martha Anaya.
Only Estepp’s body was found. That discovery led to multiple clues tying Gordon and Cano to the other killings, with Yellin making his case on evidence from DNA, GPS-tracked movements of both defendants and their own statements to police.
Jackson went missing Oct. 6, 2013. Vargas was reported missing Oct. 24, 2013. Anaya went missing Nov. 12, 2013.
Probation and parole officials came under fire in the case because the two defendants, who actually cut off their devices and left the state at one point, were supposed to be monitored, but authorities did not seem to notice they were associating with each other, which is typically a violation.
“Our intent on these nights were beyond evil,” Gordon said.
Yellin told jurors no one will ever truly know what happened when the victims were attacked. The details of who was driving and who was in the back seat hiding when they picked up prostitutes and ambushed them will remain in dispute, Yellin said.
Yellin pointed out the two were so savvy about their restrictions as sex offenders that they avoided straying too far from areas they were allowed to visit to prevent the GPS-tracking devices from being triggered. There was also evidence they used hoses at the auto body shop where they took their victims to wash evidence from the bodies, Yellin said.
“These guys not only did horrible things — killing, multiple sexual assaults — they also psychologically terrorized (the victims). They gave them hope, ‘If you just do this, we’ll let you go,’ ” Yellin said in his closing arguments.
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