Two men accused of killing four women in Orange County pleaded not guilty Monday to multiple counts of rape and murder.
Steven Dean Gordon, 45, and Franc Cano, 27, appeared in a videotaped jailhouse hearing wearing jail-issued orange jumpsuits. They sat at opposite ends of a cell and spoke only to say “yes” when asked if they would waive their rights for a speedy preliminary hearing.
Attorneys Houman Fakhimi, who represents Cano, and Deputy Associate Defender Constance Istratescu, who represents Gordon, entered the pleas on their behalf in Santa Ana.
Gordon and Cano, both registered sex offenders, are accused of raping and killing Kianna Jackson, Monique Vargas, Martha Anaya and Jarrae Estepp during a 5½-month period starting last fall.
Both men were being monitored by GPS at the time of the alleged slayings and were on federal probation.
They were also on state parole during two of the alleged killings. Cano remained on state parole but Gordon was released and placed on federal GPS monitoring the same day in November 2013 that prosecutors believe Anaya was killed.
Family members of Vargas and Anaya watched the video arraignment from a public viewing area inside Men’s Central Jail.
“It was very difficult for me,” said Linda Salcedo, mother of Martha Anaya. “It’s the first time I see the face of the men who killed my daughter.... I came so they would know that my daughter is not alone, that she has a family.”
Priscilla Vargas, mother of Monique Vargas, said she is praying that her daughter’s remains will be found soon and returned to her family. Only Extepp’s body has been found.
Anaheim police have said they believe there is a fifth victim and are working to identify her.
“They killed five women. I don’t understand it,” Priscilla Vargas said. “Who was watching them?”
Gordon and Cano, both transients who lived in Anaheim, are charged with four counts of murder and rape, as well as several special circumstances, including murder while committing rape and murder by lying in wait.
The charges make the men eligible for the death penalty. The Orange County district attorney's office has not said whether it will pursue that option.
The next hearing in the case is set for June 6.