Steven Dean Gordon, the serial killer who says he deserves to die for his crimes, found no disagreement last year from the jury nor, on Friday, from the judge.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick H. Donahue sentenced Gordon to death for the abduction and murder of four women who had been working as prostitutes in Santa Ana and Anaheim in 2013 and 2014.
In December, a jury convicted the 47-year-old Gordon of the murders and voted that he should die.
Gordon has repeatedly said he ought to be executed for his crimes, and said he fired his public defender and represented himself at trial in the hopes of speeding along the system.
Three of his victims — Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas, Josephine Vargas, 34, of Santa Ana, and Martha Anaya, 27, of Santa Ana — never were found.
The fourth victim, 21-year-old Jarrae Estepp of Elk City, Okla., was found in an Anaheim recycling plant in March 2014, and the discovery launched the investigation that led to Gordon and his co-defendant, Franc Cano.
At the time of the slayings, Gordon had been homeless and working at a body shop in Anaheim. In taped confessions and at trial, Gordon admitted responsibility for the deaths. He railed against his parole and probation agents, insisting that the victims would be alive if the agents had monitored him more diligently and prevented him from associating with Cano.
I feel the death penalty is the right sentence. I will never see my daughter, and she will never see my family.
Cano is expected to be tried for the murders later this year. Both Gordon and Cano were registered sex offenders who had been wearing ankle monitors as a condition of parole or probation. Detectives managed to link their monitors to the last known location of the victims.
Prosecutor Larry Yellin said the pair had worked together as “a very efficient killing and evidence-hiding machine.”
“My daughter was everything to me,” Herlinda Salcedo, Martha Anaya’s mother, told the judge at the sentencing hearing Friday. She described the grief of her daughter’s young children.
“Every day when they ask me about their mother, I just tell them that their mother is another star in the sky,” Salcedo said.
Katherine Menzies, Jackson’s mother, said that after her daughter’s disappearance, she was haunted by the thought that her daughter might still be alive, perhaps as the captive of a human trafficking ring. At the trial, Gordon confirmed that he had killed her. On Friday, she thanked Gordon for putting the question to rest.
“I feel the death penalty is the right sentence,” she told the judge. “I will never see my daughter, and she will never see my family.”
Gordon cried as some of the victims’ families spoke, and when it came time for him to speak, he said, “I am sorry for everything, but those are hollow words.” As he had before, he denounced his co-defendant, Cano, who had taken the 5th rather than testify at his trial. “He’s a coward. That doesn’t make me any better.”
The judge ordered Gordon taken to death row at the state prison in San Quentin, and then nodded at him briefly. “Mr. Gordon — good luck, sir. OK.”
Afterward, Menzies said she struggled at first to understand Gordon’s motives and “the whole idea of why.” But she said she is a Christian and has studied the Bible, and now thinks she has a clear view of what possessed him.
“Satan,” she said.
Estepp’s mother, Jodi Estepp-Pier, said she was not moved by the killer’s apology.
“He needs to address his apologies to God,” she said. “It’s a little late to apologize to us.”
2:05 p.m.: This article was updated with reaction and additional details.
12:10 p.m.: This article was updated with the judge imposing a death sentence.
This article was originally posted at 9:40 a.m.