SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A sex offender accused of raping and killing four women while he wore an electronic monitoring device during a months-long rampage in Southern California will start fighting the case as his own attorney during opening statements Wednesday.
Steven Dean Gordon, 47, confessed during grand jury proceedings, giving graphic details about picking up the women in his car with another registered sex offender, raping them behind an Anaheim paint and body shop where the men camped, and killing them, authorities said.
But the confession won’t be allowed at trial, said Larry Yellin, senior deputy district attorney for Orange County. The judge excluded it because Gordon told police he didn’t want to talk before launching into the elaborate account of the killings, Yellin said.
He and Franc Cano, 30, both were wearing GPS tracking devices for prior offenses when they worked together to randomly target the women in 2013 and 2014, authorities said.
One of the victim’s bodies was found at a recycling plant, and investigators linked her death to the disappearance of three other women. Their bodies have never been found.
Gordon is representing himself and was due in court on four counts each of murder and rape. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Cano, who is expected to be tried separately, was due in court later this week to set a trial date, said Yellin, who declined to comment further on the case ahead of opening statements. Cano also pleaded not guilty.
During the investigation, authorities identified the victim at the recycling plant as Jarrae Nykkole Estepp from the tattoo on the back of her neck. They searched a database of sex offenders wearing tracking devices and found Cano had been in the locations of all four women when they vanished.
They focused on Gordon after a search of Cano’s cellphone showed that the men texted constantly. The night Estepp died, a message from Gordon’s phone to Cano’s read, “this is the best one yet.”
DNA samples from Estepp’s body matched Cano’s and Gordon’s genetic material, authorities said.
Authorities believe Cano and Gordon have known each other since at least 2010, when Cano cut off his GPS device and fled to Alabama, where the men were arrested. In 2012, they cut off the devices again and took a bus to Las Vegas using fake names. They were arrested two weeks later.
Both men are registered sex offenders and were convicted in separate cases of lewd and lascivious acts on a child.
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