US & Canada

California sex offender convicted of murdering four women

Steven Dean Gordon listens during opening statements at his trial. Image copyright AP
Image caption Gordon was wearing a tracking device for prior offences when he raped and killed women in 2013 and 2014

A California sex offender was convicted of killing four women while wearing a tracking device for prior offences.

Steven Dean Gordon, who confessed to the killings to authorities in an interview, was found guilty of four counts of murder.

Police said Gordon, 47, and 30-year-old sex offender Franc Cano abducted and killed the women in 2013 and 2014.

Prosecutors first charged Gordon with rape but later dropped the charges. He may now face the death penalty.

Gordon and Cano, both registered sex offenders, were first convicted in separate cases of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14.

Gordon, who was convicted in 1992, also had a kidnapping conviction in 2002. Cano was convicted in 2008.

Police believe Cano and Gordon had known each other since at least 2010, when Cano was arrested in Alabama with Gordon after cutting off his monitoring device.

The pair then cut off their monitoring devices two years later and travelled on a Greyhound bus to Las Vegas before they were arrested again by federal agents.

According to grand jury testimony, Gordon was living in a camper van, or recreational vehicle (RV), in Anaheim at the time of the killings.

He and Cano brought their victims to the RV site and wore a GPS tracking device during at least three of the murders.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Yolanda Linder (L) and Jodi Estepp (R), aunt and mother of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, appear at Gordon's trial.

Authorities connected Gordon and Cano to the disappearance of the women through their tracking devices after discovering the body of missing 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp.

The men were charged with killing three other women who went missing in Santa Ana in 2013: Kianna Jackson, 20; Josephine Monique Vargas, 34; and Martha Anaya, 28.

All four women had connections to prostitution.

The jurors, who deliberated for about an hour before handing down the verdict, also found there were special circumstances of murder during a kidnapping and multiple murders, making Gordon eligible for a death sentence.

They will decide whether to recommend a death sentence or life in prison without parole at a penalty phase on Monday.

Cano, who is being tried separately, has pleaded not guilty. He is due back in court on 29 December.

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