Opening Statements Begin in Trial Against Accused Serial Killer Connected to Deaths of 4 Women in Orange County

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Steven Dean Gordon, accused of killing four women in Orange County in 2013 and 2014 with alleged accomplice Franc Cano, is representing himself at his trial. (Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

When a recycling plant worker in Anaheim spotted a pair of feet protruding from the debris on a conveyor belt at a vast indoor warehouse, he thought at first they might belong to a mannequin.

Detectives arrived and discovered it was the badly damaged body of a young woman, with a tattoo on her neck that said “Jodi.” It matched records in a police database for Jarrae Estepp, 21, who had recently arrived by bus from her home in Oklahoma and was working locally as a prostitute. The tattoo was her mother’s name.

The discovery of Estepp’s body at Republic Waste Services in March 2014 launched the investigation that led to the arrest of Steven Dean Gordon, a registered sex offender who stalked her and other victims with an accomplice, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday during the first day of Gordon’s trial in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.

Gordon, 47, is charged with murdering Estepp, along with three other women whose bodies were never found. Gordon could face the death penalty if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty. Gordon’s alleged accomplice, Franc Cano, is expected to go on trial next year.

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