Steven Dean Gordon was desperate.
Police from two jurisdictions crowded the parking lot outside the Anaheim auto body shop where he worked, urging him on a cellphone Friday night to give himself up.
Gordon handed the phone to a supervisor, cut off his ankle bracelet, jumped on a bicycle and fled, according to his boss.
The suspect barely made it across the street before he was collared on suspicion of killing as many as five women with a younger partner.
The next day, pictures of Gordon, 45, and Franc Cano, 27, flashed across television screens and front pages. The two registered sex offenders had a new label: accused serial killers.
“Neither of the guys I would call rocket scientists,” said Ian Pummell, Gordon’s boss at the body shop.
But Gordon seemed like a nice enough guy, deserving of a second chance after serving almost eight years in prison for kidnapping his estranged wife and 4-year-old child in Riverside County and driving them to Nevada – what Gordon called a misguided attempt to reconcile his family.
Pummell gave Gordon a minimum wage job cleaning the office and washing cars. For 1½ years it seemed a good fit, until Friday.
“You try to help people out, you just don’t think people are capable of” killing, Pummell said. “He served his time in prison. Hopefully he was rehabilitated.”
When Gordon came to Pummell, he was sleeping in a tent in an industrial area of La Palma Avenue, Pummell said.
Gordon had worked for Pummell years earlier, before prison.
Court records show Gordon served about 15 months for lewd acts with a child under 14 in the early 1990s after he was charged with molesting a nephew in Oklahoma. He told his ex-wife he wanted to kill his sister for making the accusation, according to court documents.
In 2002, he went back to prison for the kidnapping case after a jury acquitted him of raping his wife, which could have elevated the sentence to life.
In 2007, a probation officer responded to Gordon’s attempt to get the sentence reduced: “The defendant is viewed as an individual who only thinks of himself, while having little regard for pain and suffering he causes others, even his young daughter.”
A month before the kidnapping, Gordon’s wife filed for divorce and a temporary restraining order. But her attempt failed.
Gordon, according to court records, parked his Toyota truck alongside his wife’s car at church. He lured his daughter to his vehicle with the prospect of candy, say court documents.
Then, the records state, he grabbed his wife, putting a hand over her mouth to stifle her screams and shoved her into the truck.
He drove east, with a stun gun held up to his wife’s face to discourage her from fighting back. They stopped at a Super 8 Motel where he handcuffed his wife and forced her to have sex with him, according to the arrest affidavit.
She eventually persuaded him to return to California and they spent the next night in Laughlin, Nev. His wife was eventually able to contact her family and Las Vegas Metro Police, who arrested Gordon.
His ex-wife filed for another restraining order in 2004.
“To her the nightmare is real now. She knows when (he) gets out, he will come back and get her. Her daughter still talks about the day when daddy wouldn’t let them go to church.” a probation officer wrote.
“She felt by testifying,” the officer wrote, “she signed her own death warrant. She is afraid of him and firmly believes he will try to kill her if ever released.”
By TONY SAAVEDRA and JOHN ASBURY / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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