What motivated Steven Dean Gordon to abduct and murder four women?
In November 2013, 28-year-old Martha Anaya from Santa Ana, California, suddenly went missing.
Her disappearance set off immediate alarm bells for her mum, Herlinda Salcedo, especially as Martha had two children she would never desert.
Something serious had to have happened.
Days passed, and the police were doing what they could, but Herlinda decided to take matters into her own hands, too.
She handed out flyers, walked the streets looking for clues, and took down the number plates of cars she thought suspicious.
Six months later, there were still no leads. But then Herlinda got a call from police, who broke the tragic news that Martha had been murdered.
They knew the man responsible – Steven Dean Gordon, a registered sex offender who’d confessed after being arrested for another killing.
Back in the 1990s, Gordon, 47, had been convicted of molesting a child.
He’d recently been released from jail on parole, on the condition he wore an electronic tag at all times.
When the dead body of the other woman, Jarrae Estepp, 21, had been found at a recycling plant in Anaheim, near LA, police had launched a murder investigation, which had led them straight to Gordon.
The GPS tracking device on his tag linked Gordon and a friend to the exact spot where Jarrae was found. DNA was found on her body that matched Gordon’s.
After his arrest, Gordon quickly confessed to killing Jarrae, then admitted kidnapping and killing Martha, too, along with two others – Kianna Jackson, 20, and Josephine Vargas, 34.
His GPS tag linked him to where the two women were last seen, although their bodies have never been found.
Gordon also confessed to killing a fifth woman, who is yet to be identified.
All the women had links with prostitution, and Gordon admitted deliberately targeting them between 2013 and 2014, claiming it was part of an evil double act with a pal.
They’d set out on a sadistic spree, terrorising and killing the women, then going to great lengths to cover their tracks.
They’d killed their victims on the day before the rubbish was collected, so it was easy to get rid of the bodies.
They’d disabled the women’s phones and washed evidence from their bodies with car-cleaning equipment.
But what drove Gordon to commit such heinous crimes?
At his trial, Gordon chose to represent himself.
Was he trying to torment the families of his victims even further?
Prosecutor Larry Yellin argued it was for a different reason.
‘He’s very controlling,’ Yellin said. ‘He wanted the trial to be on his own terms.’
Yellin went on to describe Gordon as a predator who hunted down his victims and took joy in murdering them.
After killing Jarrae, Gordon had texted his accomplice to say, This is the best one yet.
When Gordon took the stand in court, he attempted to explain his sick actions by claiming he had a traumatic childhood.
He even blamed his probation officers for not watching him more closely.
After calling them to the stand, Gordon told them if they’d done their jobs better, his victims would still be alive.
But he went on to admit there was no excuse for what he did.
‘I am ultimately the one responsible for these five young women’s deaths,’ he said. ‘There is no defence… Absolutely none. It’s despicable and disgusting.’
Gordon even asked to play his 13-hour taped confession to the jury, which included all the grisly details of the brutal killings.
The mothers of his victims took to the witness stand to describe the impact of their loss.
‘I called jails to see if she was there,’ said Kathy Menzies, Kianna’s mum, fighting back tears. ‘I even called the morgues.’
When it came to deciding Steven Dean Gordon’s fate last December, it took the jury just an hour to find him guilty of the abductions and murders of four women. Later, it was decided he should face the death penalty.
The relatives of all four named victims sat in court to hear the verdict. Many cried, while others closed their eyes as justice was served.
‘If you kill four people like this in cold blood, you deserve to die — I believe that,’ Gordon said in response.
‘My actions were evil and horrible, and you’re gonna get your justice very shortly.’
Gordon’s alleged accomplice is due to be tried this year.