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Venancio “Vinnie” Medellin: The Ultimate Parole Protest

When you commit a crime under 18, you won’t get the death penalty, but there will be people who do not want you to get paroled. Learn more about Venancio Medellin’s story. On June 24, 1993, Elizabeth Pena and Jennifer Ertman from Houston, Texas were raped and murdered. 

The murder of Ertman and Pena made headlines all over Texas due to the heinous nature of the crime along with the new law that was put in place that allowed the families of the victims to view the execution of the murderers. 

This case was also very notable due to the state of Texas rejected many attempts to halt these executions of a few of these perpetrators by the International Court of Justice. 

Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena Murder

As previously stated, Jennifer Louise Ertman who was born on August 15, 1978, and Elizabeth Christine Pena who was born on June 21, 1977 were both raped and killed on June 24, 1993. The two were students of Waltrip High School. At the time of the crime they were both at a friend’s pool party in the Spring Hill Apartments. 

The two friends both realized that they would be late coming back home, that is when they decided to leave the party abruptly to try and make it home by their 11 pm curfew. 

However, the two friends decided it was best to take a small 10-minute shortcut through the Oak Forest by following along the railroad tracks until they passed the T.C. Jester Park. 

The two girls were just walking along around the White Oak Bayou when they saw a few “Black and White” gang members. These gang members were having a good time holding an initiation and drinking beer.

These gang members were able to kidnap Pena without much effort. However, Ertman was a little bit harder to kidnap than expected. Ertman originally was able to escape, but she would ultimately be kidnapped as well when she would run back to help her friend. 

These six gang members would then rape the two girls repeatedly. After the gang members thought about it. They realized the pair could easily identify them. 

Peter Anthony Cantu was the leader of the group. Cantu would be the one who ordered the other gang members to murder the girls. The other gang members would ultimately end up strangling the girls to death. 

Raul Omar Villareal and Derrick Sean O’Brien would be the ones who strangled and murdered Ertman using a red nylon belt prior the belt breaking. Once the belt broke, the gang members would then use shoelaces to finish the job. 

While Jose Medellin, Efrain Perez, and Cantu would be the ones who strangled and murdered Pena using shoelaces. The gang members would even stomp on each of the girl’s throats to ensure they would both end up dead. 

Villarreal, Perez, Medellin, and Cantu then went off toe Cantu’s home. Cantu did not live alone. He lived with his sister-in-law, Christina Cantu and his brother, Joe Cantu. 

When they entered the home, Christina asked why Villarreal bleeding was and why did Perez have blood on his shirt. This then led Medellin to tell Christina that the group had fun and that she will soon find out all the details on that evening news programming. But, since he could not hold back his excitement, Medellin told Christina that he raped both girls. 

When Peter Cantu returned home, he decided it was time to distribute all the valuables that they stole from the girls after their rapes and murders. 

Medellin received a ring that had a letter ‘E’ on it, so he could gift it to his then-girlfriend, Esther. Medellin also stated that he murdered a girl, but he went as far as to say that it would have been a much easier job if he had a gun. 

You also could find a videotape of O’Brien smiling while he was at the crime scene. 

When the gang left the Cantu residence, Christina urged her husband Joe to call the local police and report the crime. 

Just four days after the crime was committed, the bodies of Ertman and Pena were discovered in the park during some hot weather conditions. Both bodies were very badly decaying. The bodies were able to be identified by their dental records. 

The medical examiner was able to corroborate that both girls cause of death was due to strangulation and everyone that they believed to be a part of this crime was arrested. Medellin gave taped and written confessions. 

Trial, Sentencing, Executions

During their sentence hearing, all offenders were still remanded in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system. 

Jose Ernesto Medellin, Peter Anthony Cantu, Efrain Perez, Derrick Sean O’Brien, along with Raul Omar Villarreal all were given death sentences. 

However, the younger brother of Jose Ernesto Medellin, Venancio Medellin, 14 only received a 40-year prison sentence.  Venancio Medellin was the same age as Jennifer Ertman at the time of the killing. 

When the United States Supreme Court barred that any executions of individuals who committed crimes under the age of 18, that meant Villarreal and Perez sentences would change to life in prison. 

While O’Brien, who was the only African American in the group, was the first to be executed. O’Brien was officially executed in July of 2006. O’Brien grave can be in Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery.

While on the other hand, Jose Ernesto Medellin tried to appeal his execution. Medellin stated that he tried to let the city of Houston along with the Harris County officers know he was not an American, but he was certainly a Mexican citizen and that he was not able to get in touch with the Mexican consular officials. 

However, the prosecutors stated that Medellin never even mentioned it to authorities that he was not an American citizen, but a Mexican citizen. Medellin stated that during a sworn statement that he just learned about the Mexican consulate that could help him during 1997. 

In 1998, was when he petitioned with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals regarding this very issue. However, Medellin was formally rejected.

With his impending execution, Medellin’s case started to become an international controversy, in which the state of Texas decided not to have a hearing about whether Medellin can meet with the Mexican consular officials truly tanked his defense. 

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations state that a defendant has the right to talk to their consulate, but the United States is also just a party along to the convention. Even though the United States withdrew from compulsory jurisdiction back in 1986 but will still accept it fully dependent on a case-by-case situation. 

Then in 2004, after many years, the International Court of Justice officially responded to the lawsuit that was filed by Mexico regarding the United States. The court officially ordered that there will be hearings in place for these inmates including Jose Medellin, as they were denied their consular rights. 

President George W. Bush then ordered all the hearings to be held in 2005. The state of Texas was then under the representation of Ted Cruz, Solicitor General. Ted Cruz was the one who was challenging the presidents order along with the United States Supreme Court. 

In July, the World Court officially ordered a stay when it came down to the Medellin’s execution. Rick Perry, Texas Governor then argued that Texas was not bound to listen to the World Court rulings. 

There were many death penalty opponents that protested this impending execution. However, both victim’s families were very strongly favoring this execution as well. 

The dad of Jennifer Ertman, Randy Ertman wanted to have the City of Houston’s crime advocate, Andy Kahan to be present for the very famous Medellin execution. 

However, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not allow Kahan to be present for the Medellin execution. 

On August 5, 2008, at 9:57 pm Jose Ernesto Medellin was officially executed only after his very last-minute appeals were declined by the United States Supreme Court. 

Even the Texas Governor Perry declined all calls from Washington, DC, and Mexico to delay or stop the execution. 

On August 17, 2010, Peter Anthony Cantu was officially executed at 6:09 pm. Cantu was pronounced dead at 6:17 pm.

Aftermath

Now, there is only one other person who can possibly be a free man soon. That person is Jose Ernesto Medellin’s little brother Venancio Medellin. 

Venancio was 14 at the time of the crime. Since he was only 14, he received 40 years in prison. He will be up for parole in the next few years. 

Jennifer Ertman’s father Randy and the other victim’s family does not want him to gain parole. It is up to you to write to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice agency to tell them do NOT grant Venancio Medellin parole in his role in the rapes and murders of these two teenage girls.

Venancio Medellin in the eyes of many people should be behind bars and not be permitted to get out early for what he did to both Jennifer and Elizabeth all those years ago.