SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Two sex offenders charged with raping and killing four California women while wearing GPS monitors had escaped parole supervision and left the state together more than once in the four years before their most recent arrest, The Associated Press learned Friday.
Steven Dean Gordon, 45, and Franc Cano, 27, were arrested together out-of-state in 2010 and 2012 after escaping parole supervision, according to public records and officials. They were again together when they were arrested in April and charged with working in tandem to sexually assault and murder four California women, raising questions about the effectiveness of their parole supervision.
Earlier this month, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, asked the inspector general of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to review the monitoring of both men, as well as to review the overall monitoring of sex offender parolees and, in particular, homeless parolees. Both Cano and Gordon were homeless.
"It's awful. It makes me furious," said Jodi Pier-Estepp, the mother of victim Jarrae Nykkole Estepp said Friday when told of the earlier arrest. "If California was doing their job, my daughter would still be alive and so would those other girls."
In 2010, Cano cut off his GPS device and fled to Alabama, where he was arrested with Gordon, said Luis Patino, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Parole records obtained by the AP under a state Public Records Act request show he and Gordon were sent back to prison for five months.
The two repeated the feat again two years later, when both clipped off their electronic ankle bracelets and took a bus to Las Vegas using assumed names. They stayed at the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino for two weeks before they were arrested, according to court documents.
Both men pleaded not guilty this week in Orange County to raping and killing Estepp and three other women. Defense lawyers representing Gordon and Cano now and the lawyers who represented them at the parole board hearing in 2010 did not immediately return phone messages or emails seeking comment Friday evening.
The GPS devices are not intended to prevent crime among those wearing them and parole agents would have no way of knowing the two were together, said Patino, the corrections spokesman. The system worked as it should because they returned to jail after being discovered and arrested, Patino said.
"There is a certain myth about what GPS monitoring can do," Patino said. "It gives us a track of where that person was at any particular time, but there is no alarm that goes off if one GPS monitor comes within a proximity of the other," he said.
A spokesman for Steinberg, the state lawmaker, said the latest details on the duo's supervision underscored his earlier concerns about the use of GPS. "The expensive GPS monitoring program was sold to California voters as a way to prevent crimes among formerly-incarcerated sex offenders. Senator Steinberg has sought a statewide review of the policy because of his long held concerns about the program's ability to deliver on that promise," spokesman Rhys Williams said in an emailed statement.
Parole documents show Cano was charged at his parole board hearing on Nov. 24, 2010, with absconding from supervision for a month, traveling over 50 miles and being arrested with another sex offender. He was arrested in Alabama. Gordon was charged the same day with absconding from parole supervision and failure to report his address.
Authorities say data from the GPS monitors helped link the pair to the slaying of Estepp, whose body was found at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant in March and the disappearance of three women in Orange County last year. Police are also investigating the men in the possible death of a fifth woman.
While Cano was still being tracked by state parole agents, Gordon was discharged from state parole in November and was being tracked for life by federal probation agents, officials said.