Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: Jose Medellin

Jose Medellin
Jose Medellin
Executed on 5 August 2008

Jose Ernesto Medellin, 33, was executed by lethal injection on 5 August 2008 in Huntsville, Texas for the rape and murder of two teenage girls.

Elizabeth Pena, 16, and Jennifer Ertman, 14, spent the evening of 24 June 1993 at the swimming pool of a friend's apartment complex in Houston. As their midnight curfew approached, they debated the fastest route to Pena's home. They decided to follow the railroad tracks through a city park.

That same evening, eight young men were in the park participating in a gang initiation ritual. Raul Villareal, 17, was being initiated into the Black and White gang. The other gang members present were Medellin, Derrick O'Brien, and Peter Cantu - all 18 - Efrain Perez, 17, and Roman Sandoval. Frank Sandoval and Vernancio Medellin, 14, brothers of two of the gang members, were also present. The initiation consisted of Villareal fighting each of the other gang members for several minutes. Following this ritual, they drank beer.

At about 11:30 p.m., the two girls walked by. As they passed, Jose Medellin tried to talk to Pena. When she tried to run away, he grabbed her and dragged her down a hill. She screamed for help. Ertman ran back and tried to help Pena, but O'Brien and Cantu grabbed her and dragged her down the hill as well. At this point, the Sandoval brothers decided to leave. The remaining boys then raped both girls for more than an hour before beating and strangling them. They left their bodies in the woods.

Afterward, Medellin, Cantu, Villereal, and Perez met at Cantu's house, where he lived with his brother and sister-in-law, Joe and Christina Cantu. Christina noticed that Villereal was bleeding and that Perez had blood on his shirt and asked them what happened. Medellin replied that they "had fun" and that their activities would be seen on the TV news. He boasted to Joe and Christina that he had met two girls, that he punched one of them because she screamed when he grabbed her, and that he raped them. He also said that they killed the girls so that they could not identify their attackers. He described using his shoelaces to strangle the girls, and stepping on their necks to make sure they died. The boys also divided up the money and jewelry they took from the girls, Cantu gave Medellin a ring with an "E" on it, to give to his girlfriend, Esther.

Four days later, Christina Cantu convinced her husband to report the incident to the police. He led them to the girls' bodies, which were decomposing rapidly in the sweltering Houston summer heat. Each of the boys involved was arrested. Medellin admitted his role in the murders in a callous, boastful tone. When O'Brien was arrested, he confessed that he and the other gang members raped both of the girls. He also described how he and Jose Medellin strangled Ertman. They wrapped his red nylon belt around her neck, then he pulled at one end while Medellin pulled at the other, until the belt snapped in two. The belt was found in a search of O'Brien's apartment.

The medical examiner testified that, in addition to both girls being raped and strangled, Ertman had three fractured ribs, and Pena had one tooth that was fractured and several that were missing, indicating that she had been punched or kicked in the mouth.

Medellin had been previously arrested and charged as a juvenile for illegally carrying a weapon.

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