Case # 14ZF0337
Date: March 15, 2016
OCDA TO SEEK DEATH PENALTY AGAINST REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER FOR SPECIAL-CIRCUMSTANCES MURDER OF FOUR WOMEN AFTER KIDNAPPING AND RAPING THE VICTIMS
*Co-defendant also facing the death penalty
SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Tony Rackauckas announced today that he will seek the death penalty against a registered sex offender for the special-circumstances murder of four women after kidnapping and raping the victims. Franc Cano, 29, Anaheim, was indicted by the grand jury on Oct. 2, 2014, and is charged with four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four felony counts of forcible rape. The special circumstance sentencing enhancements are for murder during the commission of rape, multiple murders, lying in wait, and kidnapping.
Prior to seeking the death penalty against Cano, a special circumstances committee consisting of the District Attorney, the Senior Assistant and Assistant District Attorney in charge of the Homicide Unit, and other prosecutors experienced in capital cases met and discussed the nature of the crime, the vulnerability of the victims, the defendant’s criminal record, and other factors. The committee also considered mitigating circumstances presented by the defense attorney.
California law permits the District Attorney to seek the death penalty if the aggravating factors substantially outweigh the mitigating factors. Aggravating factors are any facts above and beyond the circumstances of the crime that increases the wrongfulness of the defendant’s conduct, the enormity of the offense, or the harmful impact of the crime. Mitigating factors are any facts that reduce the defendant’s blameworthiness or otherwise support a less severe punishment. The final decision to pursue the death penalty rests on the District Attorney.
Co-defendant Steven Dean Gordon, 47, Anaheim, was also indicted by the grand jury on Oct. 2, 2014, and is facing the same charges as Cano. The OCDA announced on Dec. 11, 2015, that it would seek the death penalty against Gordon.
Cano and Gordon are scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on April 8, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-35, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Circumstances of the Case
Prior to the murders, Gordon and Cano are accused of being registered sex offenders under federal supervision through GPS anklets. They are accused of being transients who camped in the back of a paint and body shop in Anaheim.
On Oct. 6, 2013, Gordon and Cano are accused of kidnapping 20-year-old Kianna Jackson from Santa Ana and taking her to the paint and body shop in Anaheim, where they raped and murdered her.
On Oct. 24, 2013, Gordon and Cano are accused of kidnapping 34-year-old Josephine Vargas from Santa Ana and taking her to the paint and body shop in Anaheim, where they raped and murdered her.
On Nov. 12, 2013, Gordon and Cano are accused of kidnapping 28-year-old Martha Anaya from Santa Ana and taking her to the paint and body shop in Anaheim, where they raped and murdered her.
On March 14, 2014, Gordon and Cano are accused of kidnapping 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp from west Anaheim and taking her to the same paint and body shop in Anaheim where they raped and murdered her.
On March 14, 2014, the Anaheim Police Department (APD) received a call about a body found on the conveyer belt at a recycling plant in east Anaheim. During the investigation, detectives identified the body as that of Estepp and linked Cano to the victim by running a sex offender GPS check. Gordon was later identified as a co-defendant in the four murders. The bodies of the other three victims were never recovered.
APD and Santa Ana Police Department investigated this case.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.