I lived in the Houston area for about 6 years, I absolutely loved it. I loved the different cultures, the great food, the historical landmarks, shopping and you never got bored or ran out of things to do. Yes, the traffic was horrible and it was hot and humid.
We also had to evacuate for Hurricane Rita, which was a nightmare, but aside from that I had no complaints. I traveled into the city for work and lived about 30 minutes out, if there was no traffic, which was rare.
Inside the Houston city limits there are plenty of seedy areas that most people would try to avoid if at all possible. There are lots of gangs and crime in general. The National Gang Threat Assessment group reports Houston has more gangs than any other city in TX with 225 different documented gangs. Houston has a population of 4 million people, not including the undocumented residents, so I guess it’s no surprise.
Gangs at one time were believed to be an inner-city problem amongst lesser fortunate people in crime ridden areas. These days, it has become an epidemic that affects any class, any race and any town. Money is the motive for these sleazebags so they go where ever the money is.
This story involves a lesser known gang called the Black and Whites.
Peter Anthony Cantu, 18, Efrain Perez, 17, Raul Omar Villarreal, 17, Derrick Sean O’Brien, 18, Jose “Joe” Medellin, 18, and Vernancio “Vinnie” Medellin, 14, were members of the Black and White gang. The gang made the national spotlight on June 23rd, 1993, after they murdered and raped Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16. The two girls were good friends who had spent the day together, and on that same night in 1993 they were tortured and died together.
The girls left a mutual friends home after a party around 11:15 p.m. to head to Elizabeth’s house and they veered off their path to take a short cut on a railroad track and through a park. They took this short cut to avoid walking by a sexually oriented business and because it would save them time – their curfew was at 12:00.
The next morning, the family realized the girls were not there and they began to panic. In 1993 cell phones were not very common and the average teenager did not have one. I was 18 at the time and I didn’t have one.
Jennifer and Elizabeth did have pagers however, so the family began desperately paging them and calling their friends. The girls friends told them they had not seen them since the night before when they left to go home.
Both families contacted the Houston Police Department and filed a missing persons report. I’m sure they were told that nothing could be done until the girls had been missing for the standard 24 hours.
The Ertmans and the Penas started independent searches on their own with the help of friends, neighbors and family. They handed out hundreds of fliers with the girls’ pictures and even gave them to the roadside vendors to insert them into the newspapers they were selling.
On June 27, 1993, someone calling himself “Gonzalez” called in a tip to Crimestoppers. He said that Jennifer’s and Elizabeth’s bodies could be found at the White Oak bayou in the T.C. Jester Park. The police went to the scene and a police chopper was also there to search the area.
Reports never said if it was being broadcast or if “Gonzalez” was watching as the officers were searching but “Gonzalez” called 911 and said to go to the other side of the bayou. When police searched the other side they found Elizabeth’s and Jennifer’s partially decomposed bodies.
As I mentioned, heat and humidity in the Houston area is unlike anywhere else I have every lived, it caused the girls’ bodies to both be in an advanced stage of decomposition, specifically on their heads, necks and genitals.
Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena had to be identified by dental records.
Jennifer’s dad, Randy Ertman was about to do an interview with the news when he heard on the news scanner that 2 bodies had been on the bayou. He immediately went to the location, which was swarming with reporters and police. He was heard on the television broadcast of the scene screaming, “Does she have blond hair? DOES SHE HAVE BLOND HAIR?”
The police on the scene were able to keep Randy Ertman away from the crime scene, sparing him the sight of his daughter in the horrendous condition she was in. Those who witnessed this incident were brought to tears, from the toughest cop to the most jaded newsperson, even when discussing this case years later.
Detectives began their investigation with the call that came from Gonzalez. Once they traced it and caught up to him, “Gonzalez” said he made the call ”at his 16-year-old wife’s urging”. He was the brother of one of the men that committed this heinous act.
Peter Cantu, Efrain Perez, Sean O’Brien, Vinnie Medellin, Joe Medellin and a few others were doing a gang initiation with Raul Villarreal. They spent the evening drinking beer and “jumping in” Raul.
For anyone who may not know what the term “jumping in” means, it means the new gang hopeful has to fight every gang member there and take an *ss-whuppin’ until he was unconscious. Most gangs used the term ”blood in, blood out”.
These days that term means nothing, once you join there’s no leaving the gang alive in most cases.
After the thugs jumped in their newest member Raul Villarreal, they continued drinking and then went out to celebrate the night’s festivities. Two guys that were with them but denied being in the Black and Whites gang said they passed Jennifer and Elizabeth in the park.
The posse grabbed Elizabeth and pulled her down the hill. Jennifer broke loose from the gang’s grip but turned and went back when she heard Elizabeth crying out for help.
For over an hour the sleazeballs savagely raped the girls. Investigators said when the gang gave details of the rape it was the worst they had ever heard and all of these guys were boasting about what they had done.
The report said there were always at least 2 gang members on each girl, raping them orally, vaginally and anally for over an hour. The boys were said to have been bragging later to their friends and family saying ” She was loose and sloppy”. Another one of the boys said he got him some “virgin blood”.
Vinnie Medellin, 14, the youngest of the gang said he kept telling the guys they all needed to leave. He said they told him to “get some” so he raped Jennifer.
When they finished raping Elizabeth and Jennifer they took them to another area in the park. They told Vinnie to stay put because he was too young to watch what was going to happen next.
Sean and Raul took a belt and wrapped it around Jennifer’s neck. They pulled each end of the belt so tight the belt broke. They finished her off with her own shoe laces. Elizabeth begged for her life, out of desperation she offered to give them her phone number to call her so they could meet up another time for sex.
They choked her to death also with her own shoelaces.
After they finished torturing, beating, raping and murdering the girls they went back to Peter Cantu’s house. He shared a house with his brother Joe Cantu and Joe’s wife Christina. The guys started bragging about their antics and said it would soon be all over the news.
The medical examiner took the stand and testified that two of Elizabeth’s teeth were knocked out of her mouth before she died. Jennifer had two ribs that were broken after she was dead. They were kicked with steel-toe boots and had their hair ripped out. Both of these girl were brutally beaten and their necks were stomped on “to make sure they were really dead”.
The girl’s family attended all the court dates and had to relive these girl’s deaths every time a picture or a witness got on the stand.
Prior to 1993, families of the victim did not get the choice to view the abuser’s execution in the state of Texas.
This case changed that.
Also, because of this case, victim’s families now have the right to give an impact statement at the trial. When Randy Ertman made his impact statement, he told Peter Cantu “We live for the day you die, I hope you rot in hell.”
The Ertmans and the Penas always stayed in the public and they vocalized their anger as victims. They stayed involved and that’s why the laws were changed.
Vernacio “Vinnie” Medellin Pleads Guilty:
All of the guys except Vinnie was charged with Capital Murder.
When Vinnie took the stand in his trial he was asked about his behavior that night. He said, he went with that gang for 1 hour and he ruined his life forever. Vinnie was charged with aggravated sexual assault. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, the maximum for a juvenile in Texas. His new address is at the Texas Dept. of Corrections.
Vinnie testified against all of the gang members except his brother. He has never taken full responsibility in his part of the crimes.
Derrick Sean O’Brien:
Derrick O’Brien was executed on July 11, 2006. His last words were ” I’m sorry, I have always been sorry. It’s the worst mistake I have ever made in my whole life. Not because I am here, but because of what I did. I hurt a lot of people, you and my family.”
Derrick O’Brien denied himself the right of a last meal.
Derrick O’Brien was linked to another murder that happened 7 months earlier, the woman’s neck was slashed. She had been raped and disemboweled.
Derrick O’Brien’s own mother and grandfather testified against him saying he was cruel and intentionally harsh.
If the very person that birthed you can say you are evil and deserve to die I think it’s safe to say Derrick O’Brien was a waste of oxygen. He should have been removed from the gene pool long before he ever had the chance to hurt anyone.
Derrick O’Brien’s Last Statement:
I do. I am sorry. I have always been sorry. It is the worst mistake that I ever made in my whole life. Not because I am here, but because of what I did and I hurt a lot of people – you, and my family. I am sorry; I have always been sorry. I am sorry. You look after each other. I love you all. Be there for one another. Alright. But I am sorry; very sorry. I love you too. Alright.
Jose Ernesto Medellin:
Joe Medellin was also executed August 26, 2008. He was 33 at the time. His last words were, “I’m sorry that my actions brought you pain. I hope this brings the closure to what you seek,” he said. “Don’t ever hate them for what they do. Never harbor hate.” He then looked toward the witness room in which his friend, Sandra Crisp, was watching, crying softly, and smiled. “I love you,” he said.
Before his execution he tried to get a stay because he was never offered the option to contact the Mexican Consulate. His stay was denied, Judge Strickland ruled that even if he had contacted them the outcome would have remained the same. He also quoted “The law is clear: Texas is bound not by the World Court, but by the U.S. Supreme Court, which reviewed this matter and determined that this convicted murderer’s execution shall proceed,” Strickland said of Medellin’s case.”
Peter Cantu was executed August 17, 2010. He was the ringleader of these horrible crimes. He had no last words. No one showed up to witness his execution except for the girls’ families. He was asked by the presiding judge if there was any reason he shouldn’t get the death penalty and his response was “nah”.
Peter portrayed himself as a conceded, self-righteous punk when he was in front of the news camera. In court, he would smile, roll his eyes and make faces. He never took anything serious, including his own sentence of death. The only opinion I have of him is that I’m upset that my hard earned Texas dollars went to feed, cloth and shelter him for so many years. I’m also sad that he could not be publicly executed. I would have happily cheered his death on while he was sitting in “old sparky”.
Peter Cantu’s Last Statement:
Efrain Perez and Raul Villarreal:
Efrain Perez and Raul Villarreal were both convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Perez and Villarreal later had their sentences commuted to to life in prison because they were 17 at the time the crime was committed. They will be eligible for parole in 2028.
The Ertmans and the Penas have videotaped their protest when Efrain and Raul come up for parole, just in case they don’t live long enough to be there. They plan to always be able to speak on behalf of their daughter’s, even if it means they have to do it from their graves.
Author: M. Stone, Unforgotten Angels