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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Two convicted sex offenders dutifully checked in with police every month and wore their GPS trackers around the clock - the rules of parole that are designed to tip off authorities if a freed felon backslides.

Yet for at least two months last fall, authorities claim, Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon were raping and killing at least four women - and probably a fifth - in the seedy prostitution hangouts of Orange County.

It was data from their GPS trackers - along with cellphone records from the victims and other evidence - that helped investigators link them to the killings, police said.

"That was one of the investigative tools we used to put the case together," Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said at a news conference Monday.

Cano, 27, and Gordon, 45, were arrested by investigators on Friday. Each was charged Monday with four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four felony counts of rape.

If convicted, they could face a minimum sentence of life without parole or the death penalty. They were being held without bail and expected to be arraigned Tuesday.

The men had known each other at least since 2012, when they cut off their GPS trackers and, using fake names, fled to Las Vegas, where they stayed at the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino for two weeks before they were rearrested, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada.

While out on parole, police believe the men killed three women in Santa Ana last October and November and an another woman in Anaheim earlier this year. All had histories of prostitution.

Quezada said authorities were confident that there was at least a fifth victim and perhaps more.

Investigators "put a stop to a serial killing that would likely have continued beyond this point," District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.

The department has contacted other places with missing-persons cases across the country.

Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas, arrived in Santa Ana the first week of October for a court hearing on four misdemeanor charges of prostitution and loitering to commit prostitution. Her mother said she stopped responding to her text messages soon after she arrived in Santa Ana.

She checked in to a Costa Mesa hotel but never paid the bill nor checked out, and her belongings were found there.

Josephine Monique Vargas, 34, was last seen Oct. 24 after leaving a family birthday party in Santa Ana to go to a store.

Martha Anaya, 28, asked her boyfriend to pick up their 5-year-old daughter so she could work on Nov. 12, then stopped responding to his messages later that night. She had been planning a birthday party for her daughter.

Santa Ana investigators didn't realize that they were looking for murder victims at first, Police Chief Carlos Rojas said.

Instead, police considered them missing persons. Investigators searched a canyon, examined the women's cellphone records, alerted hospitals, put the word out on social media and even checked motels they were known to frequent but without success in finding them.

Then, on March 14, the naked body of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, was found March 14 on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant.

That was the key that broke the case, authorities said.

In the weeks before the discovery, Estepp had become a regular on a strip of Beach Boulevard in Anaheim long known for prostitution.

Estepp had "a similar profile to our victims; we were able to ... move forward," Rojas said.

Investigators planned to search for the bodies of the three Santa Ana victims, he said.

Cano and Gordon each served time after being convicted in separate cases of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14.

Gordon was convicted in 1992 and has a 2002 kidnapping conviction, according to the Orange County district attorney's office. Cano's conviction dates to 2008, prosecutors said.

After their Las Vegas escapade, Cano and Gordon pleaded guilty to failure to register as a sex offender. They were ordered to provide DNA samples and have their computers monitored by federal agents, according to the federal documents, which were first obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The men also checked in with Anaheim police every 30 days, as required, and provided updated photos, fingerprints and addresses, Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn said.

In fact, both men checked in earlier this month, Dunn said.

Cano was wearing a state-issued ankle monitor and Gordon was wearing a federal GPS device, he said.

---

Associated Press writers Anthony McCartney and Daisy Nguyen in Los Angeles and Amy Taxin in Santa Ana contributed to this report.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about ourPRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — With the White House asserting that Russia is stoking instability in eastern Ukraine, President Barack Obama is once again faced with the complicated reality of following through on his tough warnings against overseas provocations.

Obama has vowed repeatedly to enact biting sanctions against Russia's vital economic sectors if the Kremlin tries to replicate its actions in Crimea, the peninsula it annexed from Ukraine, elsewhere in the former Soviet republic. Despite those warnings, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be testing Obama's limits, instigating protests in eastern Ukraine, the White House says, and massing tens of thousands of troops on the border, but so far stopping short of a full-scale military incursion.

"They have been willing to do things to provoke the situation that no one anticipated," Matthew Rojansky, a Russia analyst at the Wilson Center, said of Russia. "It's such a high-stakes, high-risk situation, and here they are right in the middle of it."

For Obama, the U.S. response to the chaos in Ukraine has become more than a test of his ability to stop Russia's advances. It's also being viewed through the prism of his decision last summer to back away from his threat to launch a military strike when Syria crossed his chemical weapons "red line" — a decision that has fed into a narrative pushed by Obama's critics that the president talks tough, but doesn't follow through.

While there has been no talk of "red lines" when dealing with Putin, Obama has said repeatedly that the Kremlin's advances into eastern Ukraine would be a "serious escalation" of the conflict that would warrant broad international sanctions on the Russian economy. But perhaps trying to avoid another Syria scenario, White House officials have carefully avoided defining what exactly would meet Obama's definition of a "serious escalation," even as they make clear that they believe Russia is fomenting the violence in cities throughout Ukraine's vital industrial east.

"We are actively evaluating what is happening in eastern Ukraine, what actions Russia has taken, what transgressions they've engaged in," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. "And we are working with our partners and assessing for ourselves what response we may choose."

As with the situation in Syria, Obama faces few good options as he watches Russia destabilize Ukraine, the former Soviet republic that has sought greater ties with Europe.

There's little appetite in either the U.S. or Europe for direct military action, and the White House said Monday it was not actively considering sending Ukraine lethal assistance. That's left Obama and his international partners largely reliant on economic and diplomatic retaliation.

The president has wielded some of his available options since the situation in Ukraine devolved in late February, but those actions so far have had little success in stopping Russian advances.

Obama's initial warning that Putin would face "costs" if he pressed into Crimea was largely brushed aside by the Russian leader, who went so far as to formally annex the peninsula from Ukraine. Economic sanctions on several of Putin's closest associates followed, as did Russia's suspension from the exclusive Group of Eight economic forum, but neither appears to have discouraged Moscow from making a play for eastern Ukraine.

With tens of thousands of troops massed on Russia's border with eastern Ukraine, Obama is facing calls from some Republicans to take tougher action now. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent Obama a letter over the weekend calling on the administration to immediately ratchet up economic penalties against Moscow.

"Rather than wait for a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine to implement additional sanctions, which seems to be U.S. policy at the moment, we must take action now that will prevent this worst-case scenario before it becomes a reality," Corker wrote.

Privately, some of Obama's advisers are also pushing for more robust penalties now to serve as a deterrent against a full-on Russian military incursion. But questions remain about Europe's commitment to take the kind of coordinated action that would stand the best chance of changing Putin's calculus.

Europe has a far deeper economic relationship with Russia than the U.S., meaning its sanctions would hurt Moscow more. But leaders on the still economically shaky continent fear that the impact of those sanctions could boomerang and hurt their own countries just as much.

European foreign ministers met Monday to debate whether additional sanctions should be enacted on Russia. A high-ranking European Union official said they did decide to sanction more Russians with asset freezes and visa bans, but they appeared to stop well short of targeting Russia's broader economy.

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   NEW YORK (AP) - The Washington Post and the Guardian have won Pulitzer Prizes in public service for revealing the massive U.S. government surveillance effort.
   The awards, American journalism's highest honor, were announced Monday.
   The newspapers' disclosures about the National Security Agency's spy programs show the government has collected information about millions of Americans' phone calls and emails based on its classified interpretations of laws passed after the Sept. 11 attacks.
   The stories are based on thousands of documents handed over by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
   The Boston Globe has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize in breaking news, and The New York Times has won two Pulitzers in photography categories.
 
Here is the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners:
___
JOURNALISM
 
Public Service: The Guardian US and The Washington Post
Breaking News Reporting: The Boston Globe staff
Investigative Reporting: Chris Hamby of The Center for Public Integrity, Washington, D.C.
Explanatory Reporting: Eli Saslow of The Washington Post
Local Reporting: Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia of the Tampa Bay Times
National Reporting: David Philipps of The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.
International Reporting: Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall of Reuters
Feature Writing: No award
Commentary: Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press
Criticism: Inga Saffron of The Philadelphia Inquirer
Editorial Writing: Editorial staff of The Oregonian, Portland
Editorial Cartooning: Kevin Siers of The Charlotte Observer
Breaking News Photography: Tyler Hicks of The New York Times
Feature Photography: Josh Haner of The New York Times
___
LETTERS AND DRAMA
 
Fiction: "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown)
Drama: "The Flick" by Annie Baker
History: "The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832" by Alan Taylor (W.W. Norton)
Biography: "Margaret Fuller: A New American Life" by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Poetry: "3 Sections" by Vijay Seshadri (Graywolf Press)
General Nonfiction: "Toms River": A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin (Bantam Books)
___
MUSIC
 
"Become Ocean" by John Luther Adams, premiered on June 20, 2013, by the Seattle Symphony (Taiga Press/Theodore Front Musical Literature)
Read more...

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