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Alleged serial killings highlight GPS limits

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This combination of undated photos from the Megan’s Law website shows suspects, Stephen Dean Gordon, 45, left, and Franc Cano, 27, who were arrested on Friday, April 11, 2014, on suspicion of killing four women in Orange County, Calif. Anaheim police said detectives in Santa Ana and Anaheim launched a joint investigation after the naked body of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, was found in the conveyor belt of a recycling plant last month. The probe led detectives to connect the men to her slaying, and the disappearance of three women who frequented a Santa Ana neighborhood known for drug dealing and prostitution. (AP Photo/Megan’s Law)

This combination of undated photos from the Megan’s Law website shows suspects, Stephen Dean Gordon, 45, left, and Franc Cano, 27, who were arrested on Friday, April 11, 2014, on suspicion of killing four women in Orange County, Calif. Anaheim police said detectives in Santa Ana and Anaheim launched a joint investigation after the naked body of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, was found in the conveyor belt of a recycling plant last month. The probe led detectives to connect the men to her slaying, and the disappearance of three women who frequented a Santa Ana neighborhood known for drug dealing and prostitution. (AP Photo/Megan’s Law)

A portrait of murder victim Martha Anaya, left, is displayed on a table as her mother Herlinda Salcedo cries Sunday April 13, 2014, while looking at a computer that she used to try and find her in Santa Ana. Anaya, a sex worker, is alleged to have been slain by a pair of serial killers. Anaya’s family was heavily using social media in their efforts to discover her fate. (AP Photo/Orange County Register, Eugene Garcia)

Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas speaks at a news conference, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif., to publicly discuss the deaths of four women allegedly raped and killed by two parolees wearing GPS trackers. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Leonard Ortiz)

This photo provided by the Anaheim Police Department shows Jarrae Nykkole Estepp. Estepp, a 21-year-old from Oklahoma whose body was found on a conveyor belt at a recycling center in Anaheim, Calif., in March 2014, is one of four women believed killed by two parolees wearing GPS trackers. (AP Photo/Anaheim Police Department)

This undated photo provided by the Anaheim Police Department and the Santa Ana Police Department shows Martha Anaya, 28, of Santa Ana, Calif. Anaya is one of four women believed killed by two parolees wearing GPS trackers. (AP Photo/Anaheim and Santa Ana Police Departments)

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) – Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon proved not once, but allegedly twice, that GPS trackers ‘the electronic leashes worn by 100,000 freed criminals in the U.S. ‘ aren’t foolproof.

Two years ago, the pair of registered sex offenders cut the monitors from their ankles, hopped a Greyhound bus from California and holed up in a Las Vegas casino hotel until they were captured two weeks later.

Released again, they were outfitted with new monitors, but, Orange County prosecutors contend, it didn’t stop them from raping and killing at least four women.

Investigators said data from the GPS did help them link Cano and Gordon to the killings, and they were charged this week.

But the mother of one slain woman is questioning whether it was a failure of technology or of the system.

“If they were monitored correctly, then maybe none of this would have happened,” said Jodi Michelle Pier-Estepp.

The naked body of her daughter, Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, was found March 14 on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant.

GPS monitors are supposed to deter criminals by keeping them away from forbidden area such as schools and playgrounds and from anyone who has a protective order.

They are also supposed to be an investigative tool for law enforcement to track down convicts.

“Unfortunately, GPS monitoring cannot always deter crimes,” said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which was monitoring Cano. “They are tools that show us where a monitored offender has been and can place them at the scene of a crime. A monitor has no way to detect whether a crime is being committed.”

Federal and state officials said that after Estepp, 21, was killed, the devices worked as intended by pinpointing the locations of Cano, 27, and Gordon, 45.

That was too little and much too late, according to Pier-Estepp. She fought back tears Tuesday outside the Santa Ana courtroom where Cano and Gordon made a brief appearance after being charged with four counts of special circumstances murder and four counts of rape. The men are also charged with killing Kianna Jackson, 20; Josephine Monique Vargas, 34; and Martha Anaya, 28, last fall in Santa Ana.

In neighboring Anaheim, police Tuesday asked for public help to identify a potential fifth victim — a tattooed woman in her early 20s who went missing in February.

“There’s complete negligence all around,” Pier-Estepp said. “There’s no excuse, no reason that the state can give me why these two men were even able to be around each other long enough to commit murder.”

Darren Thompson, Cano’s public defender, declined to comment Tuesday. Gordon’s attorney, Denise Gragg, did not return a call.

Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said he had little information on whether the devices were used properly by state parole and federal probation agents who were monitoring Cano’s and Gordon’s movements.

Restrictions on how the devices are used are set by the agency overseeing the offender, Yellin said.

Electronic monitoring of criminals has become increasingly popular, with more than 100,000 tracked nationally via anklets. But critics say the devices are far from a foolproof way to ensure that felons obey the law after being released from prison.

The monitors are not set up to alert authorities when two sex offenders are together, as Pier-Estepp suggested. That would be unworkable because sex

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