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The two paroled sex offenders who authorities in Southern California believe raped and killed four women allegedly wore GPS trackers while committing their crimes, and investigators believe there may be more victims.
Anaheim police Chief Raul Quezada said Monday that Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, were wearing ankle tracking bracelets when the women were assaulted and killed last fall and earlier this year. The chief added that data from the devices "was one of the investigative tools we used to put the case together." Authorities at the news conference did not explain how Cano and Gordon allegedly managed to carry out the killings while under supervision.
Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn earlier said the two were complying with a requirement to check in monthly with authorities and police had no reason to watch them more closely and hadn't received any such request from other agencies.
The Orange County distract attorney's office said Cano and Gordon, who were arrested Friday, were each charged with four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four felony counts of rape. If convicted, the men could face a minimum sentence of life without parole or the death penalty. They were being held without bail and expected to be arraigned Tuesday.
Quezada said the key to the case was the discovery of 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp's naked body on the conveyer belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant March 14. Estepp is the only one of the suspected victims whose body has been found. Quezada said authorities were confident that there was at least a fifth victim and perhaps more.
The department has contacted other places with missing-persons cases across the country, Dunn said earlier.
The string of disappearances began in October after Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas, arrived in Santa Ana for a court hearing on four misdemeanor charges of prostitution and loitering to commit prostitution. Her mother said she stopped responding to her text messages soon after she arrived in Santa Ana.
Josephine Monique Vargas, 34, was last seen Oct. 24 after leaving a family birthday party to go to a store. The Los Angeles Times quoted Vargas's mother as saying that her daughter had a rough past that at times involved drug use and prostitution, but had been trying to better her life.
Martha Anaya, 28, asked her boyfriend to pick up their 5-year-old daughter so she could work on Nov. 12, then stopped responding to his messages later that night. Police said she also had a history of prostitution.
The Associated Press reported that in the weeks prior to her death, Estepp had become a regular on a strip of Beach Boulevard in Anaheim long known for prostitution.
Police at first didn't link the disappearances of the four women to the suspects, considering them missing persons rather than murder victims.
"These individuals were not on our radar whatsoever," Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas said of the suspects. "Our three missing in Santa Ana just completely went off the grid and we were trying to follow up as much as we could."
Santa Ana police searched a canyon, examined the women's cellphone records, alerted hospitals, put the word out on social media and even checked motels they were known to frequent but without success in finding them.
Once investigators concluded that Estepp was killed and that she had "a similar profile to our victims, we were able to ... move forward," Rojas said.
Police believe Cano and Gordon have known each other since cutting their ankle bracelets in 2012 and boarding a Greyhound bus to Las Vegas using fake names. The men were arrested by federal agents on May 8, 2012, after a two-week stay at Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada.
Both were wanted fugitives: Gordon traveled using the alias Dexter McCoy and Cano chose Joseph Madrid, authorities said.
Cano and Gordon were previously ordered to register as sex offenders after being convicted in separate cases of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14.
Gordon was convicted in 1992 and also has a 2002 kidnapping conviction, according to the Orange County district attorney's office. Cano's conviction dates back to 2007, prosecutors said.
After fleeing Los Angeles in 2012, the two were re-arrested and both pleaded guilty to failure to register as a sex offender. They were ordered to provide DNA samples and have their computers monitored by federal agents, according to the federal documents, which were first obtained by the Times.
The men also checked in with Anaheim police every 30 days, as required, and provided updated photos, fingerprints and addresses, Dunn said.
In fact, both men checked in earlier this month, Dunn said.
Cano was wearing a state-issued ankle bracelet and Gordon was wearing a federal GPS device, he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.