Thursday, July 20, 2006

July 11, 2006

...another bad one....

Last Meal: O'Brien had no final meal request.

The skinny: O'Brien was executed for the torture, rape and strangling of two teenage Houston girls 13 years ago.

More skinny: O'Brien was one of six members of a fledgling street gang drinking beer after initiating a new gang member. The two victims were walking home from a friend's house, taking a shortcut along some railroad tracks when they stumbled upon the group.

Evidence showed the girls were gang raped for more than an hour, then were kicked and beaten before being strangled. A red nylon belt was pulled so tight around one girl's neck that the belt snapped. The belt was later recovered from O'Brien's home. The bodies of the two teenage girls were found four days after they failed to return from a friend's house. When the bodies were discovered, they were decomposing and mummifying in 100-degree heat.

A smiling O'Brien, then 18, was seen on a videotape of the crowd that gathered as investigators worked the scene of the grisly discovery. A tip from the brother of one of the gang members led police to the arrests in the killings that shocked even crime-hardened Houston.

O'Brien, who confessed to police, was one of six gang members convicted in the case and the first to be executed. The ninth-grade dropout, who had previous arrests for shoplifting a pistol, assault and auto theft, also was a suspect in a murder six months before the girls were killed but never was charged.

Two of the gang members, Efrain Perez and Raul Villarreal, had their death sentences commuted to life in prison when the Supreme Court last year barred executions for those who were 17 at the time of their crimes. Peter Cantu, described by authorities as ringleader of the gang, remains on death row without an execution date. Jose Medellin, who was condemned and who O'Brien said was at one end of the belt being pulled around the girl's neck as he yanked on the other, had his case returned to the state courts under an order from President Bush. Medellin is among some 50 Mexican-born offenders who argue that under international law they should have been allowed assistance from the Mexican Consulate before trial. A sixth person convicted, Medellin's brother, Vernancio, was 14 at the time and received a 40-year prison term.

Last words and such: "I am sorry. I have always been sorry," O'Brien said, holding his head up and looking straight at relatives of his victims. "It is the worst mistake that I ever made in my whole life. Not because I am here but because of what I did and I hurt a lot of people, you and my family." He repeated again and again that he was sorry.

Factoids: O'Brien was the...

26th murderer executed in U.S. in 2006
1030th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
14th murderer executed in Texas in 2006
369th murderer executed in Texas since 1976