August 17, 2010 by staff
Ready to make the trip again to see for the third time the execution of one of the members of the band responsible for the rape and murder of her teenage daughter and her school friend.
This time, it will be lethal injection Tuesday of Pedro Antonio Cantu, head of the five youths who were sentenced to die for the June 1993 murder of 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena, 16 years old.
He has not lost on him that Cantu has been in jail longer than Jennifer and Elizabeth were alive.
“I should have been hung outside the court,” Ertman said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I do not mean this in a horrible way, but if you want to make the death penalty as a deterrent, in front of (Houston) City Council, who have all these beautiful trees. They should have hung them. If the five of them hung that would be a deterrent. ”
The case shocked Houston. Nearly two decades after friends and relatives frantically distributed flyers offering a reward of 10,000 and help find teens who did not return home from a party in the pool in summer, the prosecutor Donna Goode still has one in his office.
“Two beautiful young girls,” says Goode. “I think of them.”
Their battered and decomposing bodies, left to mummify in a wooded area in the relentless summer heat of Houston, were found four days after they disappeared.
“They become everyone’s daughter,” recalled Don Smyth, a former district attorney of Harris County assistant who had helped prosecute Cantu. “Parents always worry about their children, particularly their daughters.”
Of the six people convicted, five were sentenced to death. Two people from 17, when the girls were killed did not suffer the death penalty when the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of persons who were under 18 when they committed their crimes. The person sentenced to death, then 14, was sentenced to 40 years.
Cantu’s two bandmates they called the Black and White preceded him to the death chamber.
Ertman made the drive here four years ago for the first run. Derrick O’Brien, belted to a gurney, looked out the window in the death chamber Ertman and other relatives of the girls and called his participation “the worst mistake I ever made in my life.” Seven minutes later, O’Brien was dead.
In August 2008, upstairs Ertman more red-brick prison unit in Huntsville. Mexican-born Jose Medellin, 33, with needles in his arms, also apologized. Nine minutes later he was dead.
Ertman rejected an invitation from Cantu’s attorney is to come to his office and read a letter of apology from Cantu.
“It’s a little late,” Ertman said. “I told him to stick. Hell, no.”
On that June night, the girls were hoping to beat a curfew 23:30 a shortcut home neighborhood northwest of Houston Pena. They were crossing a railroad bridge when the friends, drinking beer and startup of a new member, spotted them.
One of the band members took Peña. She screamed. Ertman tried to help.
In what police later described as a sadistic frenzy, the girls were gang raped for more than an hour. They were forced to perform oral sex. They were driven out, teeth knocked out and hair pulled out and broken ribs. A belt of red nylon, with an attacker by pulling from each end, was pulled so hard on the neck Ertman belt broke. The cords were used to strangle Pena.
Tests showed Cantu began one of the girls in the face with his boot with steel toe.
“The victims were so friendly and rightly so,” said Robert Morrow, a lawyer of Cantu. “Just a bad case, bad.”
A tip led authorities to the bodies. And Cantu’s brother, annoyed by the band delight in having fun with the girls, called the police.
Cantu, after 18 years, orchestrated the attacks and murder. He became famous for trying to expel a television cameraman recording their detention.
Due to repeated behavioral problems, Cantu had been in an alternative school since sixth grade. At age 11, was caught stealing a bike from a younger boy. His crimes escalated to car theft and an attempted stabbing.
Authorities later linked to him and O’Brien a murder six months before the Ertman and Pena attack. In that case, a 27-year-old was found in a park in Houston with his throat cut. She had been raped and eviscerated.
On death row, Cantu, now 35, was ranked among the inmates of better behavior.
“He has matured greatly,” said Robin Norris, his attorney to appeal. “It’s a guy who accepts full responsibility.”
In his statement to the Ertman-Pena case, the judge asked if Cantu had some reason sentence should not be imposed.
“No,” said Cantu. He has refused to speak to reporters as he neared his execution date.
Court of Appeals to delay the punishment seemed exhausted. On Friday, the Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected his clemency petition.
Cantu, the first of five to be tried, convicted and sentenced, will be the last to be executed.
Ertman will remain a few feet away, looking back through the window.
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