The father of a girl killed in one of Houston's most horrific murders passed away last year, but his voice continued to be heard Thursday at a prison board parole hearing. Randy Ertman designated friend and Victim’s Advocate for the City of Houston, Andy Kahan, to speak for him when he was dying of cancer.
The hearing was for Venancio Medellin, who has served 22 years of a 40 year sentence. He was the youngest of six members of the so-called Black and White gang, when they brutally raped and killed Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena in 1993. He was sentenced under juvenile guidelines. His parole has been denied 4 times already.
Five others were convicted of capital murder in the case. Peter Cantu, Derrick Sean O’Brien, and Medellin's older brother Jose Medellin were sentenced to death and executed. Raul Villareal and Efrain Perez were also sentenced to death, but saw their punishment commuted to a life sentence because they were both 17 when the crime was committed. Kahan says there’s no reason to show mercy for Villareal.
“This individual and others were responsible for depriving Elizabeth and Jennifer of their life and all we can do in return is deprive them of their liberty,” Kahan said.
The crime deprives victims’ families of happiness, too, and fighting paroles is an additional source of pain.
“You want to personalize to the parole board what this person did to your loved one,” Kahan said. “You want to bring them back to life. That takes a lot of emotional upheaval.”
Until September 1st, prisoners became eligible for parole every three years. Now there’s a new state law that will put more years between parole reviews for some very violent criminals.
“With the new law, any capital murderer or aggravated sexual assault offender, like Medellin, will now be eligible for a 5, 7, or 10 year set off,” Kahan describes, “So the minimum is 5, the maximum is 10, which will certainly give families ample time to breathe, heal and go on about their lives.”
Kahan says because the longer set off applies to the worst of the worst, the law gives the parole board more time to consider cases of inmate more worthy of parole.
So Kahan’s mission before the parole board is to keep Medellin's prison door shut tight, and keep the Ertman and Pena families from having to deal with his parole for another 10 years.
It will be at least a few weeks, and possibly a few months, before the parole board makes its decision about Medellin. Meanwhile Kahan says Villareal and Perez will become eligible for parole in 2028.