Jason Kandel

Man Sentenced to Death in Orange County Serial Killings

On his 48th birthday, a sex offender who murdered four Orange County prostitutes was sentenced to death Friday.

Steven Dean Gordon, who acted as his own attorney at his trial, said he fought for the right to defend himself so he could get the trial finished faster, telling the jury that "if you kill four people like this in cold blood, you deserve to die. I believe that."

The jury that convicted him on Dec. 15 deliberated for around four hours over two days before reaching that conclusion six days later, recommending that he be sent to death row. The jury also had the option of recommending that he spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Gordon said he called parole and probation officials to testify in his trial because he wanted them to also shoulder blame for the 2013 killings.

"I have no defense," Gordon said of his crimes. "I put people up there who are as responsible as me and my co-defendant... I was attacking them because they didn't do their job."

Parole and probation officials came under fire after Gordon and 30-year-old co-defendant Franc Cano, another registered sex offender, were arrested because it appeared they had been socializing together, which would be against the rules. The defendants cut off their GPS devices and left the state at one point.

"I never said it was OK," Gordon said of his spending time with Cano. "They gave us permission."

Gordon admitted his involvement in most of the abduction murders, although he insisted Cano — who is awaiting trial — was the main culprit in hunting down and killing 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 20-year-old Kianna Jackson, 34-year-old Josephine Vargas and 28-year-old Martha Anaya.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin — who's since been named a Superior Court judge — argued that Gordon was the "manipulator" and the "big brother" in the relationship between the convicted sex offenders.

Only Estepp's body was found. That discovery led to multiple clues tying Gordon and Cano to the other killings, with Yellin making his case on evidence from DNA, GPS-tracked movements of both defendants and their own statements to police.

Yellin told jurors no one will ever truly know what happened when the victims were attacked. The details of who was driving and who was in the back seat hiding when they picked up prostitutes and ambushed them will remain in dispute, he said.

Yellin said the two were so savvy about their restrictions as sex offenders that they avoided straying too far from areas they were allowed to visit to prevent the GPS-tracking devices from being triggered.

There was also evidence they used hoses at the auto body shop where they took their victims to wash evidence from the bodies, Yellin said.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
Contact Us