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Crime News Murders

California Serial Killer Franc Cano Sentenced To Life For Killing, Raping Four Women

“I wasn’t there when he killed her, but I see it in my head every day,” Melody Anaya, the daughter of Martha Anaya, one of Franc Cano’s victims, said in court on Thursday.

By Dorian Geiger
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

Franc Cano, who kidnapped and killed at least four women in southern California, will not face the death penalty after striking a plea deal with prosecutors.

Cano, 36, who pleaded guilty to four counts of rape and murder, now faces life imprisonment. 

The killings, which stretch back almost a decade, claimed the lives of Kianna Jackson, 20; Josephine Monique Vargas, 34; Jarrae Estepp, 21; and Martha Anaya, 28. Jackson and Vargas’ bodies were never recovered. 

“He took away everything from us,” Melody Anaya, the daughter of Martha Anaya, one of Cano’s victims told the court on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported. “I wasn’t there when he killed her, but I see it in my head every day.”

Melody was only 12 years old when Martha Anaya was slain, according to the newspaper.

“I wish the pain would stop,” Melody Anaya added. "It keeps me awake at night and eats me alive every day.”

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Cano committed the killings while out on probation for a past sexual offense conviction. He carried out the abductions and killings of Jackson, Vargas, Estepp and Anayan in tandem with convicted sex offender Steven Gordon, who was also on probation at the time. 

The two men, who knew each other since 2012, both had prior convictions for sex crimes against minors. 

Prosecutors say Cano and Gordon specifically targeted sex workers in Anaheim and Santa Ana. 

Steven Gordon during his sentencing

The pair first became suspects in the case in March 2014, approximately a month after the body of Estepp was found at a trash collection center in Anaheim.

Cano was later tied to the set of gruesome slayings through an ankle-worn GPS monitor. DNA evidence linking the 36-year-old to the murders also implicated him. Detectives hadn’t initially linked the four killings, chalking their cases up to be missing persons investigations. The GPS data, former Anaheim police Chief Raul Quezada said, later proved to be one the key “investigative tools we used to put the case together.”

“These individuals were not on our radar whatsoever,” then-Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas stated in 2014, according to the Associated Press. “Our three missing in Santa Ana just completely went off the grid and we were trying to follow up as much as we could.”

Cano and Gordon typically strangled their victims, according to prosecutors. After sexually assaulting and murdering their victims, they’d often discard of their bodies in a garbage bin at the car repair shop where Gordon was employed, per the Los Angeles Times report. 

At trial, Cano’s legal team labeled Gordon the architect in the coordinated killings of Jackson, Vargas, Estepp and Anaya. His lawyer, Chuck Hasse, who referred to Gordon as an “alpha dog” and “master of manipulation,” said he had a “Svengali-like effect” on his client. 

“From birth, he was a follower,” Hasse said of Cano, per the Los Angeles Times.

Gordon, who represented himself at trial, was ultimately found guilty and sentenced to death in 2017.

According to the Orange County Register, Cano and Gordon were also accused of killing a fifth woman, 19-year-old Sable Pickett, who disappeared from Compton in February 2014. Cano allegedly admitted to the woman’s killing, however, charges were never brought forward as part of a grant of immunity in exchange for information he provided law enforcement. Pickett’s body was never found. Detectives, however, suspect she’s likely buried in a landfill in the Brea area.

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