SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A sex offender accused of raping and killing four women while he wore an electronic monitoring deviceduring a months-long rampage in Southern California began fighting the case as his own attorney Wednesday.
Steven Dean Gordon, 47, confessed during grand jury proceedings, giving graphic details about picking up the women in his car with another registered sex offender, raping them behind an Anaheim paint and body shop where the men camped, and killing them, authorities said.
But the confession won’t be allowed at trial, said Larry Yellin, senior deputy district attorney for Orange County. The judge excluded it because Gordon told police he didn’t want to talk before launching into the elaborate account of the killings, Yellin said.
He and Franc Cano, 30, both were wearing GPS tracking devices for prior offenses when they worked together to randomly target the women in 2013 and 2014, authorities said.
One of the victim’s bodies was found at a recycling plant, and investigators linked her death to the disappearance of three other women. Their bodies have never been found.
Gordon is representing himself on four counts each of murder and rape. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Cano, who is expected to be tried separately, was due in court later this week to set a trial date, said Yellin. Cano also pleaded not guilty.
Gordon declined to give an opening statement Wednesday and told the judge that he didn’t want to move forward with an apparent agreement that would have led the prosecution to dismiss his rape charges, reports the Orange County Register.
When asked by a judge, he said he didn’t need more time to think about the decision. He will reportedly have an option to give an opening statement after the prosecution rests its case.
Speaking to jurors, Yellin described how investigators used the GPS units and cellphone data to tie Gordon and Cano to the killings, the paper reports.
Yellin compared the case in his opening statement to the 1975 movie “Jaws.”
“’Jaws’ is about a predator,” Yellin told jurors, according to the paper. “This case is about two. You are about to see the hunt.”
During the investigation, authorities identified the victim at the recycling plant as Jarrae Nykkole Estepp from the tattoo on the back of her neck. They searched a database of sex offenders wearing tracking devices and found Cano had been in the locations of all four women when they vanished.
They focused on Gordon after a search of Cano’s cellphone showed that the men texted constantly. The night Estepp died, a message from Gordon’s phone to Cano’s read, “this is the best one yet.”
DNA samples from Estepp’s body matched Cano’s and Gordon’s genetic material, authorities said.
Authorities believe Cano and Gordon have known each other since at least 2010, when Cano cut off his GPS device and fled to Alabama, where the men were arrested. In 2012, they cut off the devices again and took a bus to Las Vegas using fake names. They were arrested two weeks later.
Both men are registered sex offenders and were convicted in separate cases of lewd and lascivious acts on a child.