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Sex offender convicted of killing 4 women in Orange County

Accused as a serial killer and facing the possibility of the death penalty, Steven Dean Gordon fired his public defender and insisted on representing himself.

He made little effort to defend himself at trial in Orange County Superior Court, however. Instead, he raged against his codefendant and railed against the parole and probation departments once charged with monitoring him as a sex offender, scolding agents for not watching him more closely.

It took jurors about an hour Thursday to find him guilty of murdering four women who were working the prostitution corridors of Anaheim and Santa Ana in late 2013 and early 2014.

Jurors will gather again next week for the penalty phase of the trial, to decide whether Gordon, 47, should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison.

“I am ultimately the one responsible for these five young women’s death,” Gordon told jurors during his closing argument Thursday, referring to four named victims and to a fifth who has never been identified.  

Three of the named victims — Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas; Josephine Vargas, 34, of Santa Ana; and Martha Anaya, 27, of Santa Ana — vanished and were never found.

The body of the fourth — Jarrae Estepp, 21, of Elk City, Okla. — was found at a recycling plant in Anaheim in March 2014.

The investigation led police to the industrial trash bin where she had been dumped, which sat behind the Anaheim paint-and-body shop where Gordon worked.

Police discovered that Gordon’s whereabouts, reflected by the ankle monitors he wore as a sex offender, corresponded with the last known whereabouts of three of the victims.

Gordon admitted to participating in the abduction of all four women and of either abetting or committing the murders in league with codefendant Franc Cano, who is expected to go on trial next year.

In his closing argument to jurors Thursday, prosecutor Larry Yellin said the pair raped and terrorized their victims and took pains to conceal their crimes with increasing sophistication. 

Yellin said they disabled their victims’ phones, washed evidence from the bodies at a car-wash apparatus behind the body shop, and killed them on days before trash was picked up, the easier to dispose of them.

 “They are generating a very efficient killing and evidence-hiding machine,” Yellin told jurors. “They get more and more efficient.”

He described Gordon as the physically dominant “big brother” of the pair.

During the trial, Gordon called his former parole and probation agents to the stand and berated them for what he insisted was their failure to supervise him properly. If they had been doing their jobs, he insisted, they would not have allowed him to associate with Cano, a fellow sex offender, and the women would be alive.

The prosecutor derided Gordon’s effort to shift blame as “white noise,” irrelevant to the question of his guilt.

“The probation department didn’t do it,” Yellin said of the killings. “The parole department didn’t do it.”

In his remarks to jurors, Gordon did little to defend himself against the charges, at one point saying that the prosecutor’s version was “100% correct.”

Gordon insisted, however, that while “we drove down looking for a girl to kidnap and ultimately murder” on the night they found Estepp, he later wanted to release her but couldn’t stop Cano from killing her. He said he watched Cano stomp on her neck to ensure she was dead.

Gordon also insisted that in the case of Jackson, he and Cano set out “to pick up a working girl,” not to kill her, but “things escalated out of control really, really fast.”

In the months that followed, he said, he and Cano stalked women with violence in mind. “Our intention on these nights was beyond evil, no doubt about it,” Gordon said.

christopher.goffard@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATchrisgoffard

 


UPDATES:

5:10 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details and editing.

This article was originally published at 4:35 p.m.

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