Ron Carlson speaking to Houston media at a press conference on August 16, 2010, the day before Peter Cantu became the 463rd person executed by Texas since 1982. Cantu was executed for his part in the murders of two teenage girls, Jennifer Ertman (14) and Elizabeth Peña (16), who attended Waltrip High School in Houston and were walking home alone one night in 1993. The girls were gang raped, beaten and strangled in an attack that shocked Houston and attracted national attention for its brutality. Before the press conference, flowers to remember and honor Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Peña were placed on their memorial at Waltrip High School (Watch Video of flowers).
Ron Carlson‘s sister, Deborah Ruth Carlson Davis Thornton, and Jerry Lynn Dean were murdered with a pick ax by Karla Faye Tucker and Daniel Ryan Garrett on June 13, 1983.
Both Tucker and Garrett were sentenced to death. Ron originally supported their sentences, telling the prosecutors, “I think they got what they deserved.” Ron lost his stepfather and natural father within a year of Deborah’s death. “You can’t imagine the anger that was in this body,” he says now. For many years, Ron treated his pain with alcohol and drugs, until becoming a Christian and turning his life “over to the Lord” in 1990. Ron ultimately forgave Karla and Dan and worked hard to commute their death sentences. Dan died in prison of natural causes in 1993. Despite widespread appeals on her behalf, Karla Faye Tucker was executed on February 3,1998, in Huntsville, Texas. Ron was invited by Karla to witness the execution as one of her representatives. When he did so, he become the first known victim’s family member to witness an execution on behalf of the murderer.
Text of Ron Carlson’s statement is below:
To the Ertman and Pena families:
I can’t say that I know how you feel concerning the loss of your loved ones Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena. The images of those two beautiful girls will forever be in my mind as well as the horrifying act of their demise. What I can say is that I can relate to it due to the fact that I have had two people murdered in my family. On June 13th, 1983 my sister Deborah Ruth Carlson Davis Thornton was murdered by Karla Faye Tucker and Daniel Ryan Garret. On October 17th, 1984 my father William Gerald List was murdered by Elbert Smiley Homan.
I can say that I understand your wants and desires for justice concerning Peter Cantu. I have difficulty in believing that the execution of Peter Cantu will provide any sort of closure concerning the case.
I can truthfully say that, since I have personally witnessed an execution. I had hoped and prayed that I would receive closure and that would be the end of it.
What I did learn that night was that another set of victims were created and that the cycle of violence continued.
It is my hope that the Ertman and Pena families can find peace in their lives. It is also my hope that the Ertman and Pena families can find it in their hearts to forgive those who destroyed their families. If they can do that, I believe they will find that their lives will be better because of it.
I state this because when I forgave those who destroyed my family, I found that I was more at peace concerning the loss of my loved ones. We can never forget them, but we can honor them.
Two of the men sent to death row for this gang rape and murder were juveniles and were taken off death row in 2005 when the US Supreme Court outlawed sentencing juvenile to death. They were given life. The earth did not crumble. Texas did not disintegrate. The world continued to rotate on its axis–in other words, life went on and the two juveniles are in prison but not facing death.
We do not need the death penalty.
We do not need the state of Texas to kill people who kill to show that killing is wrong.