Domingo Cantu Jr., 31, was executed by lethal injection on 28 October 1999 in Huntsville, Texas, for the rape and murder of a 94-year-old woman.
On 25 June 1988, Suda Eller Jones. 94, was taking her morning walk in front of her home in Dallas when Domingo Cantu Jr., then 20, accosted her. Jones yelled for help as Cantu dragged her into her back yard. Once in her back yard, Cantu dragged her over a chain link fence into the back yard of an adjoining property. He raped her, then beat her head on the sidewalk repeatedly until she was dead.
A neighbor, Fred Oakes, was working in his yard when he heard Jones scream for help. He saw a man dragging her into her backyard. Oakes ran to her front yard and saw her cane, slipper, and hair net lying on the ground. He called for her and received no reply. He then called the police.
Two Dallas police officers arrived after about eight minutes. After speaking with Oakes, they drove around the block. While searching, they saw Cantu jump out of some bushes and run away. He had blood on his face, hands, legs, and shoes. The police ordered him to stop, and he did.
Police then found Jones. She was lying face down in a pool of blood, partially nude. She had multiple large head wounds. She also had injuries on her back which were consistent with being dragged over the fence that separated the two properties. She also had abrasions all over her head and face, brusies all over her body, sixteen broken ribs, and a broken sternum. Her vagina was also injured.
Cantu confessed to the crime. While he was awaiting trial, he attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself with a sheet. At his trial, he pleaded not guilty. Forensics technicians testified that a pubic hair recovered from Cantu's zipper belonged to Jones. Her blood was on Cantu's shirt and underwear. Also at his trial, a witness testified that hours before Jones's murder, Cantu assaulted her at a bus stop, tried to pull down her pants, and stole her purse. She identified Cantu as her assailant from the distinctive scorpion tattoo on his neck. Cantu confessed to this assault in court.
Cantu had numerous prior arrests and convictions for burglary. He was placed on probation twice as a juvenile and twice as an adult. Eventually, he was sentenced to stay in a halfway house for six to twelve months. When he fled the facility in March 1987, a warrant was issued for his arrest. After he was arrested in July 1987, his probation was revoked and he was sentenced to two years in prison. He was paroled in October 1987 after serving less than seven weeks of his sentence. (Early release was common in Texas at the time because of strict prison population caps imposed by U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice.) He also attempted to break out of the courtroom once during his trial.
A jury found Cantu guilty of capital murder in October 1988 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in June 1992. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
From death row, Cantu wrote letters to anti-death penalty groups, claiming innocence. He wrote that when he was arrested, he knew nothing about what was going on. At the police station, "a detective ... questioned me about a murder I knew nothing about," he wrote. Later, the detective "asked me to sign to pieces of paper, so I could be released. Being that I was practically illiterate at the time, I asked what were the pieces of paper and he told me they were my statements to what we talked about, so I signed them without having him read them to me." Cantu claimed that all of the physical evidence used against him was fabricated.
In 1993, Cantu stabbed and wounded a fellow death row inmate in the throat with a 13-inch shiv fashioned out of a typewriter key.
In 1999, Cantu received permission to have DNA testing conducted on his shirt and underwear. The victim's DNA was positively matched to the blood on his clothing.
Cantu expressed love to his family in his last statement. He was pronounced dead at 6:23 p.m.
By David Carson. Posted on 14 November 2002.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General's Office, Associated Press, letters from Domingo Cantu.