Sex offenders accused of killing 4 O.C. women could face death penalty

Two homeless sex offenders accused of killing four women in Orange County could face the death penalty after being charged with murder in the commission of rape and lying in wait, authorities said.

Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, were formally charged Monday, three days after they were arrested 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.

They are also accused of killing Kianna Jackson, 20, Monique Vargas, 34, and Martha Anaya, 28. Police have not said whether they have found their bodies.

Both men were ordered to register as sex offenders for life after they were convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, court records show. Cano pleaded guilty in 2007 to the charge and was sentenced to three years in state prison, according to the records.

Gordon was convicted in 1992 of the same charge and was also sentenced to three years in prison, court records state.

Cano and Gordon have known each other since at least April 2012 when they cut off their electronic monitoring devices and fled to Nevada, using the aliases Dexter McCoy and Joseph Madrid, according to federal court records. They stayed at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for about two weeks, until they were arrested, the records said.

Following their arrests, they pleaded guilty in Nevada federal court to failing to register as sex offenders. As part of their probation, the men had to provide a DNA sample, and their computers were monitored by federal agents, according to records. Gordon and Cano checked in monthly with Anaheim police as required, said Lt. Bob Dunn, a spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department.

The string of disappearances in Santa Ana began in early October soon after Jackson 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 but 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, 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.

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

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