Peter Cantu's execution set for tonight

August 17, 2010 4:13:38 AM PDT
A painful chapter in Houston's history will close when Peter Cantu is executed tonight. He was the leader of the gang that attacked, raped and murdered Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena back in 1993. "I'm like, hey I could be their grandma," said Janie Torres, whose house is near where the girls' bodies were discovered.

Even 17 years later, Janie Torres says she still feels guilty.

"I have never forgotten them," Torres said. "I didn't hear anything, you know, and it's bothered me for years."

Her Oak Forest home overlooks the park where the tortured bodies of Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, were found in 1993. She still wishes she could have done something. She's looking forward to tonight.

"He needs to go somewhere else," she said.

That is when Cantu, now 35, is set to die by lethal injection in Hunstville.

Just 18 years old at the time, he led a gang of five other teens to repeatedly rape and murder Ertman and Pena. His is the last execution in the case.

"Tomorrow is full circle for everyone," Kim Ogg said.

In 1993, Ogg was a prosecutor in the district attorney's gang division. She had a small role in the killers' prosecution -- writing their arrest warrants -- but saw a huge impact citywide.

The girls' murders led to what is now the mayor's anti-gang office. Ogg was its first director.

"This case sort of galvanized the public into realizing the problem was violence and it wasn't simply about misguided youth. It was a serious problem and it needed to be reckoned with," she said.

From that came the graffiti ordinance, daytime curfews and the prevalence of school uniforms in public schools -- stricter guidelines for youth.

Torres thinks about the what-ifs all the time.

"It's just really so sad, and there's still a sadness about it," she said.

If everything goes to plan, Cantu will be the third person executed for this crime. Two others are serving life sentences. One got 40 years in prison.

Cantu will be moved to death row Tuesday morning and get a four-hour visit with his family. The victims' parents are set to watch the execution.

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