36th Execution of 2010
Texas has executed a former gang member who took part in the rape and murder of two teenage girls who were walking home from a neighborhood party 17 years ago in Houston.
Peter Anthony Cantu was strapped to a gurney in the Huntsville Unit prison death chamber and given a lethal injection Tuesday evening as relatives of his victims, Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena, looked on.
Prosecutors say Cantu, 35, was the leader of a group of six teenage gang members who took part in the attack.
No crime in modern Houston history has resonated like this one. According to the Houston Chronicle, on the morning of June 30, Houston awoke to learn of events of a few days earlier that defied belief.
Two High School students had left a Thursday night gathering of friends in a rush to be home before their curfew. To save time, they took a shortcut that led along railroad tracks near a park. By coincidence, a six teenagers, gang members, who had just completed a boozy, fight-filled gang initiation ritual noticed their shadowy figures. The girls were grabbed, repeatedly raped, then strangled, beaten and stomped beyond recognition.
People normally immune to the shock of another murder were stunned by the savagery of what happened on a moonless muggy night in Houston. This was something more than the danger inherent in big-city life. This suggested a lurking evil, omnipresent and inchoate. If it could show up at such a nondescript moment - teenagers unknown to each other passing in the night - perhaps no one's safety was more than an illusion.
Even the police were stunned. The attackers shouted obscenities at TV cameras when they were arrested and reportedly bragged of their crimes once in their jail cells. The Chronicle reported, that the killers didn't crumple or cry when recounting the bestiality of their acts to investigators. All of it - the entire ugly tableau of human destruction - was told as if it had been a TV rerun from a year ago.
Two other gang members have also been executed and two are serving life prison sentences. The sixth was convicted as a juvenile and is serving a 40-year prison term.
Cantu was the 17th Texan executed in 2010. He is the 1,223rd person executed in the U.S. since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976.