Two friends, both convicts, and five missing women

Steven Gordon and Franc Cano were best friends – and the only link between four women who suddenly went missing in Orange County.

Both men held a troubled past. Both had been convicted of sex offenses. Both were separated from their families in some part because of their crimes, and both wore GPS anklets so law enforcement officials could keep track of them.

Franc Cano
Steven Gordon

They were convicted child molesters and transients, living out of a vehicle in Anaheim’s industrial neighborhoods. They went by mostly unnoticed, even as police continued to search for three missing women whose only link to each other at the time was their disappearance and their ties to prostitution.
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Released from jail but still a suspect

Eder Herrera was in handcuffs hours after his mother and brother were stabbed to death in their Yorba Linda on Oct. 25, 2011.

Facing two charges of murder, the 24-year-old street sweeper maintained his innocence during the three months he spent behind bars.

Then, on Feb. 1, 2012, Itzcoatl Ocampo, a suspected serial killer charged with the deaths of four homeless men, told investigators he was also responsible for the deaths of Herrera’s family.

Ocampo described in detail how he snuck into the home with plans to kill the family. He told detectives he stabbed them multiple times with the same knife he used against the homeless men.  He also had plans to wrap an extension cord around Eder Herrera’s neck, but Ocampo said the youngest member of the family walked out of the house before the bloodshed began.

More than two years after the deaths, and after charges against Herrera were dropped, but Herrera is wondering why police and prosecutors still consider him a suspect.

Continue reading “Released from jail but still a suspect”

Credit card skimmers get more sophisticated.

Seems like your cell phone is out of date by the time you get around to buying a protective case for it. That’s how fast technology changes for criminals and the law enforcement agencies chasing after them as well.

Skimmers began to show up on the criminal radar a couple of years ago, but the devices investigators first ran into were clunky machines that still left plenty of risk for whoever planted and picked them up to collect the data.

That meant criminal enterprises hired “runners” to plant the devices at ATMs, gas station pumps and other places were people readily used their ATM.

The devices needed space for memory and a camera planted nearby to pick up the victim’s pin.

No more.

The devices law enforcement is running into now are as small, smart, and convenient. They are blue-tooth enabled, small, unobtrusive and less risky for the criminal who needs only park close enough to get the information transferred wireless.

“It’s like installing a virus,” Sgt. Scott Spalding of the Orange County Sheriff Department’s economic and computer crimes detail.

In this story, Spalding and other investigators shared their work with the Glendale Police Department, leading to the arrest of seven people in a sophisticated skimming scheme. They also shared details about some of the technological advances that have made these financially devastating machines as accessible as $50-worth of equipment from Fry’s.

Continue reading “Credit card skimmers get more sophisticated.”

Drug use in Orange County

I wrote this story back in 2010 after I bumped into it during a conversation with a narcotics investigator. It came back to mind today when a teacher at a local school contacted me after running into the article online.

It may be there are more incidents now, or perhaps she’s noticing them more now, but several students have been found with small rocks of heroin – a drug you don’t usually associate with the often overlooked drug use of a troubled teenager. After speaking with the kids, school officials and police are finding out teenagers are graduating to heroin after experimenting with prescription drugs – which are easier to get a hold of in middle- to upper-middle class South Orange County. Continue reading “Drug use in Orange County”

Court docs, and the story

Court rooms are not the dramatic scenes of T.V. dramas, and I think I’d rather crack open the owner’s manual of my DVD player before sitting down and reading a court file.

The way depositions are depicted on court shows is also entertaining: so full of tension, drama, witty exchange and fervent accusations. In fact, they’re achingly technical, meticulous, and sluggishly deliberate. Extracting a human story from these documents is not easy – especially on deadline.

But the court system is nevertheless an amazing window into the character of individuals and our society, and the details of those stories are Continue reading “Court docs, and the story”

Did former cop plant drugs?

In a federal law suit, Timothy Slappy of Costa Mesa claims he took a plea deal for a drug possession charge in order to avoid jail time.

The 51-year-old man said he suspected the white substance that was found on him had been planted, but he had no way to fight the charges. Months later, he discovered that lab results had shown the substance was not even cocaine.

Here is the story.

Lawsuit accuses cop of planting drugs


Continue reading “Did former cop plant drugs?”

‘Suspicious’ elements in missing-woman case


The Orange County Register

Published Aug. 27, 2010

Richard and Marcia Forsberg
Richard and Marcia Forsberg

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA – Richard Forsberg’s explanation as to why no one had seen his wife of 39 years was not adding up, authorities said.

Friends had been trying to reach Marcia Ann Forsberg since February, but her husband told them they were separating and she was busy with friends. When neighbors asked for her, he said she was in Arizona.

When deputies interviewed him at his Rancho Santa Margarita home Tuesday, Richard Forsberg told them he hadn’t seen his wife since March, yet had not filed a missing person’s report. When deputies returned the following day to clear up discrepancies in his stories the 61-year-old man disappeared.

Investigators are now looking at hard evidence to try to determine where Marcia Ann Forsberg is. Officials have towed Richard Forsberg’s vehicle and it has been sent to the county crime lab to be thoroughly searched. Forensic investigators on Wednesday also combed through the couple’s home on Cascada for clues as to what happened, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

“The whole thing seems very suspicious,” he said.

Investigators have found no sign of a struggle inside the Forsberg home, but officials are still looking to find out where the 61-year-old woman is. As friends and neighbors tried and failed to contact her, they’ve grown concerned…(Click here to continue.)