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Suspected serial killers had history of escapes and close association

Suspected serial killers twice fled the state while under supervision
The two suspected serial killers sought police protection from another sex offender

Two sex offenders accused of killing four women in Orange County while being monitored by multiple agencies had a history of escapes and a close association that was prohibited, new records obtained Friday by The Times show.

Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon, both of whom served time in state prison for sexually molesting children, were arrested in April on multiple charges of rape and murder. They are accused of killing four women over five months. The body of only one has been recovered. Police say they suspect there is a fifth, unidentified victim.

California parole records released to The Times show Cano and Gordon’s shared history extends back to just after their release from prison, including one occasion when they fled to Alabama in 2010. The Times previously reported that the men fled the state in 2012.

Moreover, the two men went to police in 2011 to seek protection from a third sex offender who they alleged had threatened to kill them.

“Being in concert, that takes it to a whole other level,” said state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), a former state parole commissioner. He called for the state corrections department to release currently sealed records that show how closely the agency supervised Cano and Gordon.

“It deserves further inquiry, and communication to the public.... It can’t be hidden in the dark corners of" the state corrections agency, Nielsen said.

Both men initially shared the same state parole agent and later the same federal probation agent.

Cano’s file shows the parole agent in 2010 believed it was wrong for sex offenders to be together, though California corrections officials now say there is little the state could do to prevent such association. In addition, the GPS location monitors those offenders wear while on state parole do not signal an alert when those being tracked are together.

“Since offenders must often attend the same counseling classes, substance abuse treatment programs, or live in areas that are far from schools and parks, sex offenders often come into contact with each other,” said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

State files released to The Times after it appealed earlier denials show parole violations by the two men on Oct. 22, 2010, when they were arrested for fleeing. Gordon’s file provides no details, but a summary of Cano’s parole hearing shows he had cut off his GPS tracker, thrown it in a trash can and fled to Alabama.

Among the violations he was charged with was associating with another sex offender.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department refused to release its jail booking records for Cano and Gordon.

In 2012, the men again cut off their state-issued GPS monitors and took off, this time spending two weeks together in a Las Vegas hotel before being caught. The excursion landed both men in federal custody, charged with breaking federal sex offender registration laws and on federal probation, where court files show they were assigned to the same officer.

Shortly after Gordon’s state parole ended in 2013, a federal judge ordered him put on federal electronic monitoring.

Federal probation officials in Los Angeles refuse to discuss their supervision of Cano and Gordon.

The first slaying occurred in October 2013, when Las Vegas resident Kianna Jackson, 20, went missing after traveling to Santa Ana for a court date. Josephine Vargas, 34, disappeared three weeks later in the same general area. And on Nov. 12, the day Gordon was ordered to again put on a GPS ankle monitor, Martha Anaya disappeared and allegedly was killed.

The women, all with histories of prostitution, were considered missing until the body of a fourth woman, Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, was found March 14 on a conveyor belt in an Anaheim trash-sorting facility. Police said her body was probably dumped in a trash bin in an industrial area of Anaheim near where Gordon worked and where he and Cano had reported to state parole agents.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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