ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY NEWS RELEASE
Date: February 3, 2017
*Co-defendant is also facing the death penalty
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A registered sex offender was sentenced to receive the death penalty today for the special-circumstances murder of four women after kidnapping the victims. Steven Dean Gordon, 48, Anaheim, was indicted by the grand jury on Oct. 2, 2014. He was found guilty by a jury on Dec. 15, 2016, of four felony counts of special circumstances murder with sentencing enhancements for kidnapping and multiple murders. The OCDA announced on Dec. 11, 2015, that it would seek the death penalty against Gordon, and a jury recommended the death penalty for Gordon on Dec. 21, 2016.
Co-defendant Franc Cano, 30, Anaheim, was also indicted by the grand jury on Oct. 2, 2014, and is charged with four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four felony counts of forcible rape. The special circumstance sentencing enhancements are for murder during the commission of rape, multiple murders, lying in wait, and kidnapping. The OCDA announced on March 15, 2016, that it would seek the death penalty against Cano. He is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on May 12, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
This case was investigated by the Anaheim Police Department (APD) and the Santa Ana Police Department. Former Senior Deputy District Attorney, the Honorable Larry Yellin, prosecuted this case throughout the trial. Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.
Prior to seeking the death penalty against Gordon, a special circumstances committee consisting of the District Attorney, the Senior Assistant and Assistant District Attorney in charge of the Homicide Unit, and other prosecutors experienced in capital cases met and discussed the nature of the crime, the vulnerability of the victims, the defendant’s criminal record, and other factors. The committee also considered mitigating circumstances presented by the defense attorney.
California law permits the District Attorney to seek the death penalty if the aggravating factors substantially outweigh the mitigating factors. Aggravating factors are any facts above and beyond the circumstances of the crime that increases the wrongfulness of the defendant’s conduct, the enormity of the offense, or the harmful impact of the crime. Mitigating factors are any facts that reduce the defendant’s blameworthiness or otherwise support a less severe punishment. The final decision to pursue the death penalty rests on the District Attorney.
Circumstances of the Case
Gordon was convicted of and Cano is accused of the following crimes:
Prior to the murders, Gordon and Cano were registered sex offenders under supervision through GPS anklets. They were transients who camped in the back of a paint and body shop in Anaheim.
On Oct. 6, 2013, Gordon kidnapped 20-year-old Kianna Jackson from Santa Ana and took her to a paint and body shop in Anaheim, where he murdered her. Cano is accused of raping and murdering the victim.
On Oct. 24, 2013, Gordon kidnapped 34-year-old Josephine Vargas from Santa Ana and took her to the paint and body shop in Anaheim, where he murdered her. Cano is accused of raping and murdering the victim.
On Nov. 12, 2013, Gordon kidnapped 28-year-old Martha Anaya from Santa Ana and took her to the paint and body shop in Anaheim, where he murdered her. Cano is accused of raping and murdering the victim.
On March 13, 2014, Gordon kidnapped 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp from west Anaheim and took her to the same paint and body shop in Anaheim, where he murdered her. Cano is accused of raping and murdering the victim.
On March 14, 2014, APD received a call about a body found on the conveyer belt at a recycling plant in east Anaheim. During the investigation, detectives identified the body as that of Estepp and linked Cano to the victim by running a sex offender GPS check. Gordon was later identified as a co-defendant in all four murders. The bodies of the other three victims were never recovered.
At Gordon’s sentencing several victim impact statements were given by family members of the victims, including each of their mothers, pursuant to Marsy’s Law. Martha Anaya’s mother Herlinda Salcedo spoke about her grandchildren who are now without a mother, and read a statement from Martha’s 12-year-old sister, which stated in part, “She also told me not to talk to strangers, now I realize why.”
Kathy Menzies, Kianna Jackson’s mother, spoke alongside her own mother, Dianne Menzies. They told the court how heartbreaking it is that Kianna will not get to see her younger brother graduate from high school or see the young man he has become.
Jarrae Estepp’s cousin and mother asked the court to deliver the death penalty to Gordon. Jodi Estepp-Pier explained how difficult it was to watch the man who killed her daughter throughout the trial, stating in part, “I’m so glad that you cannot do this to another woman ever again.”
TONY RACKAUCKAS, District Attorney
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff
Public Affairs Unit