Murder of Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Peña: Teenagers’ shocking death examined on Prosecuting Evil With Kelly Siegler

Elizabeth Peña and Jennifer Ertman
Elizabeth Peña (Left) and Jennifer Ertman were brutally raped and murdered in a Houston park. Pic credit: Oxygen

Prosecuting Evil With Kelly Siegler is investigating the barbaric murder of teenage girls Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Peña, who were raped, beaten, abused, and finally strangled to death by members of the Black and White gang in Houston, Texas.

On the night of June 24, 1993, best friends, 14-year-old Jennifer and 16-year-old Elizabeth, attended a friend’s pool party. They had promised their parents they would be home by 11:30 p.m., and when it started getting late, the girls decided to take a shortcut home through T.C. Jester Park.

Unfortunately, as the pair crossed the park, they ran into gang members Peter Cantu, Jose Medellin, Derrick Sean O’Brien, Efrain Perez, Raul Villareal, and Venancio Medellin. The Black and White gang had just finished initiating Villareal into their gang and now set their sights on the two girls.

Jennifer and Elizabeth were forced to the ground and stripped naked before the gang members took it in turns to rape them. The young couple fought hard, kicking and biting their attackers, but they endured about an hour of horrific torture.

Cantu reportedly ordered both girls to be killed. The 14-year-old Venancio Medellin stayed behind while the others took Jennifer and Elizabeth into the woods. The girls were strangled with a belt, a shoelace, and their killers’ bare hands. The thugs also stomped on their throats to make sure they were dead.

The gang reportedly killed Jennifer first, forcing Elizabeth to watch her die before giving her the same treatment. The killers then stole jewelry and anything they thought of value from the girls.

Black and White gang bragged about killing Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Peña

The thugs then went to the home of Cantu’s brother, where they bragged about the murders to the brother and his wife. A few days later, at his wife’s insistence, Cantu’s brother went to the police.

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The cops arrested all the gang members in one swoop. O’Brien confessed outright to the murders, and Cantu admitted to being involved.

Mugshot of Peter Cantu
Peter Cantu was executed by lethal injection in 2010. Pic credit: Texas Dept. of Justice

Venancio Medellin testified against the other gang members. He was eventually convicted of sexual assault and was given 40 years in jail.

Five gang members sentenced to die for Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Peña murders

Peter Cantu, Jose Medellin, and Derrick Sean O’Brien were sentenced to death for the murders. All three were executed using lethal injection.

Elizabeth’s father, Adolph Peña, later said, “It was probably the happiest day of my life to see those three individuals that killed my daughter be executed for what they did.”

Efrain Perez and Raul Villarreal were also initially sentenced to death but later had their punishments commuted to life due to being under 18 at the time of the crime.

The case was groundbreaking because it was the first instance when members of a victim’s family were allowed to witness an execution. Also, Jennifer’s father, Randy Ertman, was the first to read out a witness impact statement in court.

Prosecuting Evil With Kelly Siegler airs Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.

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