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Sex offenders charged with rape, murder of four Orange County women

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Murder and rape charges were filed Monday against two registered sex offenders accused of killing four women who vanished from the streets of Orange County.

Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, were formally charged Monday with murder in the commission of rape and lying in wait, accusations that would make them subject to the death penalty.

Both have prior convictions, and have done time in prison for sex crimes against a child under the age of 14.

The two transients were arrested Friday in an industrial area of Anaheim, not far from the trash-sorting facility where the body of 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp was found last month on a conveyor belt.

Police have not said whether they have found the bodies of the other women, awho all went missing last fall. But the mother of one of the woman said police visited her Monday, and told her that her daughter's body had not been found.

The string of disappearances in Santa Ana began in early October soon after Kianna Jackson, 20, arrived in the city for a court hearing on four misdemeanor charges of prostitution and loitering to commit prostitution, according to court records. Jackson had grown up in a small, rural Northern California town and moved to Las Vegas after one semester of college.

Her mother, Kathy Menzies, said Jackson stopped responding to her text messages shortly after she arrived in Santa Ana.

Nearly three weeks after Jackson disappeared, Josephine Monique Vargas, who grew up in Santa Ana, left a family birthday party and said she was going to the store. She was not seen again.

Vargas, 34, had a rough past that at times involved drug use and prostitution, according to court records. But she was also very close to her family, especially her mother, and had been trying to improve her life. After she disappeared, her mother, Priscilla Vargas, would walk East 1st Street in Santa Ana, among the city's roughest blocks, asking the drug dealers, street workers and anyone else who might be around if they knew anything about her eldest child, whom everyone called "Giggles."

When Martha Anaya, 28, disappeared Nov. 12, she had been planning her daughter's birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese. She asked her boyfriend to pick up their daughter so she could work, but stopped responding to his messages later that night.

Like the other women, Anaya had a history of prostitution, according to court records. Her family worried that her past may have reduced the urgency of the official search after her disappearance.

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Paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

Adolfo.flores@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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