Victim’s Family Blames CA for Serial Murders

     SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – Two sex offenders were able to rape and murder a young mother because the state’s electronic monitoring devices didn’t work, the family claims in court.
     The victim’s mother Jodi Pier Estepp and her son N.M. sued California, its Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Satellite Tracking of People (STOP), 3M Company and five John Doe parole officers in Orange County Superior Court.
     Twenty-one-year-old Jarrae Nikole Estepp “was raped and murdered by two felonious sex offenders, Franc Cano and Dean Gordon” on March 14, 2014, the complaint states.
     Her body was found in garbage at a trash sorting site in Anaheim. Cano, 28, and Gordon, 45, are charged with raping and murdering four women and could be sentenced to death if convicted, according to the L.A. Times.
     They are not parties to this case.
     The family claims that if 3M’s and STOP’s monitoring services had worked correctly, and if the Department of Corrections had arrested the sex offenders for parole violations, “Ms. Estepp would not have been raped and murdered and her son left without a mother.”
     “It’s as awful a situation as one can imagine,” plaintiffs’ attorney John Girardi told Courthouse News. “The district attorney is pursuing criminal remedies against the criminals, and we’re choosing to file a civil action against those whom we believe also bear responsibility.
     “We thoroughly investigated the matter, and the details provided in the complaint are those we intend to prove across the course of the case.”
     A spokeswoman for 3M told Courthouse News: “3M Electronic Monitoring’s contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ended on June 30, 2012. As of November 1, 2012, no offenders in the department were using our devices.”
     The family says Estepp was the last victim before the suspected killers were arrested.
     Because both men are sex offenders with long histories of violent sexual crimes, they were required to register with the state’s Sex Offender Tracking Program for life and to wear electronic monitoring devices, according to the complaint.
     But Estepp’s family says the Department of Corrections did not adequately monitor the men or review the data generated by their devices. Had parole officers done so, they would have noticed that the men were frequently together, which violated their terms of parole, and arrested them, preventing Jarrae Estepp’s murder, the family claims.
     “The CDCR further failed Ms. Estepp and the three other murdered women by employing defective EMDs” made by STOP and 3M, the complaint states, referring to electronic monitoring devices.
     Previous reports from the National Institute of Justice indicated that the devices were not effective because the batteries have short lives, parolees could easily remove them or use tinfoil to jam the GPS signal, and the technology could not accurately pinpoint a parolee’s location, among other things, the family says.
     Both men removed their state-issued devices a year before they murdered Jarrae Estepp and the other women, the complaint states.
     The family says the prisons department is seriously understaffed and its parole officers are overworked and undertrained, preventing them from continuously monitoring dangerous criminals like Cano and Gordon despite a state mandate to do so.
     The defendant Doe officers were each assigned up to 120 violent criminals to monitor in a 40-hour work week. Though they were required to be on call at all times, they refused to answer calls or investigate alerts while off duty because the department does not pay them for overtime work, “thus leaving high risk sex offenders unmonitored and parole violations being left with no consequence,” the complaint states.
     Moreover, STOP and 3M did not ensure their devices could not be removed or disabled by wearers before marketing them to corrections agencies, the complaint states.
     “As a result, Mr. Gordon and Mr. Cano, two known, dangerous and violent sex-offenders, who were under the supervision of the CDCR, raped and murdered Ms. Estepp,” which would not have happened had the devices worked properly and the department’s parole officers did their jobs, the complaint states.
     Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton told Courthouse News that it has not been served with the lawsuit, and does not comment on pending litigation.
     But Thornton said that the GPS monitors are not designed to send alerts when sex offenders contact each other because they often legitimately meet in counseling classes or in areas where they live.
     The monitors do alert the department if a sex offender goes into restricted areas, called exclusion zones, because “potential victims may be in that vicinity,” Thornton said.
     Though GPS monitors can place a person at the scene of a crime, they cannot deter crimes or detect if the person wearing it is committing a crime, Thornton said in an email.
     The other defendants did not immediately return requests for comment.
     Estepp’s family seeks damages for wrongful death, negligence, failure to supervise and strict product liability.
     Their attorney Girardi is with Girardi & Keese of Los Angeles.

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