Pure Murder

Pure Murder

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Bestselling author Corey Mitchell provides a detailed account of the 1993 murder of Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena in this engrossing true crime book.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541453814
Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date: 04/30/2017
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Corey Mitchell is the bestselling author of several true crime books, including Hollywood Death Scenes, Dead and Buried, and Savage Son. He was the founder of the #1 true crime blog, In Cold Blog, and is currently a contributor to MetalSucks, the #1 website for heavy metal news.

James Anderson Foster has narrated audiobooks for a variety of publishers, across nearly all genres-both fiction and nonfiction. In 2015, he was a finalist in three categories for the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences Voice Arts Awards (Mystery, Science Fiction, and Fantasy).

Read an Excerpt

Pure Murder



Copyright © 2008 Corey Mitchell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7860-3990-6


Jennifer Ertman

Jennifer Ertman was born on August 15, 1978, to Sandra and Randy Ertman. The Ertmans were ecstatic at the birth of their child because they were not sure if they would ever be able to conceive, since Sandra was on the wrong side of thirty-five.

Baby Jennifer was the Ertmans' own personal little miracle.

Sandra described her only child as "real sensitive, modest, funny." To her mother, Jennifer was "more child than teenager." She still seemed to act more like a young girl than a budding teenager. "She liked to play. She had a baseball card collection." Her father also said she developed a good sense of humor at an early age and that she had "the best laugh."

Her mother spoke about how Jennifer tended to act younger with the kids in her neighborhood than with her friends at school. "She would ride her go-kart or bicycle down the street. She used to pull her wagons down the street with Ishmael, a boy down the block that she grew up with, and his family."

As Jennifer got older, she kept her more childlike side out of view from her high-school friends. "When she went to school, she didn't let her friends know that she did that at home. She tried to act more like a teenager."

The Ertmans added that she was always a good kid. "We were firm with her when she was growing up," Randy recalled. "We taught her to never lie, cheat, or steal, and to treat everyone with respect." Randy added, "As long as she never lied to me, I didn't have to worry. She never lied to me, so I never had to worry."

The couple refrained from spanking her. Randy recalled yelling at her only three times in her entire life. He felt he never really had to raise his voice to her. "We only had one child and we spoiled her, but she had rules and she had to live by them."

Jennifer was always a very modest girl. She loved to swim; however, she was not thrilled about displaying her body in front of others. Her mother remembered, "In the summertime when she went swimming, I bought her big, baggy cover-ups to put on over her bathing suit when she got out of the swimming pool." Jennifer loved to swim, but she did not like to prance around in front of the other poolgoers. Her mother said she would even wear the cover-ups in the swimming pool.

Jennifer also wore long, baggy denim shorts that came down to her knees whenever she lay out by the swimming pool. She stayed away from short shorts. She also never wore a sleeveless shirt. "She dressed for comfort," her mother declared, "and she dressed baggy because she didn't like anything tight."

Jennifer was also not too big on boyfriends. "She had friends that were boys," her mother clarified, "but she did not have any boyfriends." Jennifer still seemed to retain some of her younger-child mentality when it came to boys and girls. "She didn't like boys to touch her at all."

Jennifer was proud to be a virgin. Indeed, it was her intention not to surrender her virtue until she met the right man and married him. Her virginity was her badge of honor and something she was determined to keep until the moment was perfect.

Sandra had noticed certain changes in her daughter in the previous months. To her, it seemed as if Jennifer were slowly breaking out of her little-girl phase and beginning to grow into being a teenager.

Jennifer used to wear barrettes in her hair all the time; however, she had begun taking them out so she could mimic the hairstyles worn by some of the actresses on the popular nighttime soap opera Beverly Hills, 90210. It's what all the girls at Waltrip High School were doing and she had decided it was time to fit in.

Jennifer also began to wear more jewelry. She had her ears double-pierced, and on top of one ear she had tiny diamond studs. She wore tiny dime-sized hoop earrings on the bottom. She also wore two long gold rope chains, one with the letter J on the end. The young girl also wore a total of eight rings on her fingers, including two J rings and one E ring.

Jennifer also began to put on makeup, even though her parents assured her she was beautiful without it.

Despite her newer leanings toward more mature decorations, Jennifer also wore a Walt Disney Goofy watch, which was a gift from her parents from the previous Christmas.

She was not entirely ready to give up her childhood.

There was another overt sign that the Ertmans' baby daughter was growing up. When she turned thirteen, she asked her parents for her own set of house keys. It was not for sneaky ulterior motives. The Ertmans had two doors in the back of their home. One was the regular door and the other was a door made of metal burglar bars, which were necessary because they lived on a nice street in one of the lower-quality areas of the Heights.

Jennifer wisely said, "Mom, can I have my own keys so I don't have to keep bothering you?" Sandra believed her daughter had proven she was responsible enough, so she had an extra set of keys made for her.

The Ertmans also purchased a unique gift for their daughter that showed she was quickly growing up: a pager.

Jennifer received a Southwestern Bell pager for Christmas in 1992. Sandra was reluctant to give it to her at first. During the '90s, pagers had a stereotypical connotation as a tool for drug dealers. Jennifer insisted she wanted one because it was a way to keep in touch with her friends. This was before the mass proliferation of cell phones. Sandra and Randy discussed the issue with Jennifer, and the couple decided that because Jennifer was now attending Waltrip High School, she would not be in the Heights area, where they lived, as much. The family agreed it would be a smart purchase, so they bought her one. Sandra actually felt better about it because now she knew she could get in touch with her daughter much quicker in the event of an emergency.

Thursday, June 24, 1993 — 4:00 P.M. Ertman residence East Twenty-fifth Street Houston, Texas

Sandra walked into her daughter's bedroom. Jennifer was getting ready to visit her best friend, Elizabeth Pena. Sandra glanced at her daughter, who was standing next to a mirror, brushing her hair. She was amazed at how much her daughter had grown, and she was proud of what a wonderful person she was turning out to be. Jennifer made straight A's in school, had nice friends, never got into trouble, and loved her parents.

"Dad's taking you over to Elizabeth's," Sandra informed her daughter. It was usually her mother who drove Jennifer everywhere. "I'm going to go over to Apple Tree to pick up some groceries."

"Okay, Mom," Jennifer acknowledged while continuing to brush her hair.

"I love you, honey." Sandra walked toward her daughter. "I'll talk to you later." The mother leaned over and gave her daughter a peck on the cheek.

"I love you, too, Mom." Jennifer smiled as her mom exited her bedroom.

Sandra felt safe about letting her daughter go out for the night with friends. Jennifer had her pager and also cash in her purse. Her mother always left $35 on Jennifer's dresser every Thursday for allowance. Jennifer also received the same amount on Sundays and she always kept a $10 bill in her pants pocket in case of emergency or if she needed to call a taxicab. Sandra made sure her daughter knew that if she ever needed a ride home, all she had to do was get to a pay phone and call her parents. They would come get her — no matter the situation.

Sandra left her home feeling upbeat. She knew her daughter was a good girl and knew how to stay out of trouble. Randy marveled at how close the two ladies in his life were. He watched as Sandy and Jenny communicated more "I love you's" without verbalizing them. They shared a unique and special bond that only a mother and daughter could experience.

Jennifer and her dad left fifteen minutes later.

Randy dropped Jennifer off at Elizabeth Pena's house on Lamonte Lane, approximately four-and-a-half miles away from their home. Jennifer did not lean over to give her father a kiss good-bye. She had recently gotten out of the habit due to embarrassment, being a teenager and all.

"Be home by midnight," her father reminded her.

"I will, Dad. I love you." Jennifer said good-bye.

"I love you, too, honey," Randy responded as he drove off. The self-described overprotective father did not like to leave his daughter on her own; however, he knew she was growing up.


Elizabeth Pena

Elizabeth Christine Pena was born on June 21, 1977, at Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital, in Houston, Texas, to her parents, Melissa and Adolpho "Adolph" Pena. Melissa was eighteen years old at the time and Adolph was twenty-one.

Melissa's water broke the night before and Adolph rushed her to the hospital. At 2:00A.M., after several hours of waiting, the nurses informed Adolph he could go home and get some sleep. Sure enough, less than two hours later, he received a call that his first child had been born with no complications.

"That was one of the most precious times of my life," Adolph recalled. "That firstborn child. There's nothing like the first one." He described his immediate attachment to his daughter as "pretty special."

Adolph and Melissa used a baby-name book to select "Elizabeth." They were an ecstatic young couple looking forward to sharing their lives and love with their baby daughter.

The Penas had met just over two years before. Adolph, whose parents and grandparents grew up in San Antonio, Texas, moved to Houston with his parents in 1975 after his dad received a better job offer. He was the only child left in the house and the three of them packed up and moved southeast to Houston.

Soon thereafter, Adolph went to a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert at Jeppesen Stadium, the former home of the Houston Oilers football team and also the University of Houston Cougar college football team. There he met an attractive white girl named Melissa Moore. The two hit it off as friends and promised to get together after the concert. One thing eventually led to another and they found themselves in love, married, and with child.

The Penas lived a quiet, relaxed life in their quaint home on Lamonte Lane, in northwest Houston. Their home was located on a pine-tree-lined suburban street less than a quarter of a mile away from Stevens Elementary and less than half a mile away from T. C. Jester Park, with its clean bicycle paths and shade trees for people who sought exercise.

Adolph described Elizabeth as a "normal little kid who loved to play out in the backyard and swim in her little plastic swimming pool."

Elizabeth was two years old when she was joined by her little brother, Michael. As brother and sister grew older, they fought constantly about the silliest things. Michael picked on Elizabeth, and she told on him. They always seemed to be at each other's throats, even though they loved one another tremendously. They shared a bedroom for ten years and slept in bunk beds together.

Adolph laughed when he talked about how Elizabeth and Michael used to fight. "It was always some piddly bullshit stuff. 'Oh, Mom, he's looking at me' or 'Oh, he's touching me.' Just piddly, silly kind of stuff. Just bullshit, like brothers and sisters do."

When the two oldest children became teenagers, they "kind of went their separate ways," according to Adolph. "He got into basketball and baseball. She couldn't stand PE. She didn't like sweating. She was into her things. So, finally, they quit fighting with each other."

According to Adolph, Elizabeth was still very much a girly-girl. She loved to dress up and look good. It was apparent early on that she was a beautiful little girl. All of the Penas' friends and family members would comment on what a lovely young lady Elizabeth was from an early age.

Elizabeth had very curly hair and loved to have it fixed up, but she hated having her hair washed. Her father and mother used to wash it in the sink and Elizabeth would scream at the top of her lungs while she was doused in water. No one knew why, but it became a source of humor for the entire family.

When Elizabeth was almost ten years old, the Penas welcomed their third child into the fold — a baby girl named Rachael. Elizabeth immediately took to Rachael and constantly doted on her little sister. She adored Rachael and did everything she could to help her mother take care of her.

"She just thought that was the neatest thing," Adolph recalled of his oldest daughter's fascination with the newest addition to the family. "She thought the world of Rachael." By the time Rachael turned four, Elizabeth had already taken her under her wing and loved playing with her.

Elizabeth was a decent student in school. Her father believed she was "intelligent, but lazy. She did what she needed to do to get by. As far as books were concerned, she would do what she had to do to pass. One of those types of people." Elizabeth was not interested in excessive studying or making the honor roll. According to Adolph, she was only a C to C-minus student. She was more interested in enjoying herself, looking pretty, and making lots of friends.

The older she got, the more everyone noticed her. She grew into a stunning, thin young girl, with long, dark hair. She was one of the most popular girls in each of her schools from Oak Forest Elementary to Stevens Elementary.

Her parents would not let Elizabeth attend F. M. Black Middle School, even though it was located just three blocks down on Lamonte Lane. Her parents believed there were too many bad things going on at Black, so they sent her to a private Catholic school.

Her father even warned her about "men of all ages." He told her that most men were only interested in one thing and that she should always be wary of their intentions. He told her that since she was so beautiful "men would try to take advantage" of her and that she should not "trust anyone" and "always be aware of your surroundings."

Adolph did not mind if his little girl had a boyfriend; he just wanted to make sure she was friends with the boy for a long time before they started dating, "Just like me and her momma did." He worried about his little daughter having sex and getting pregnant.

While Adolph fretted about his daughter's blossoming into a woman, Melissa Pena could still see the little-girl quality within her oldest daughter. She described Elizabeth as "fun-loving, goofy, silly, liked to talk on the phone, sweet, gentle, and kind." Elizabeth was "young and carefree," with no plans.

"She thought she had a full life in front of her," Melissa recalled.

According to Adolph, Elizabeth had always been a good kid until she turned fourteen. "She started hanging out with the wrong crowd. A bunch of crazy little kids. She didn't give a damn about nothing. She wasn't using any drugs or drinking any alcohol. She just kind of liked to get into trouble. Never went to jail. Never in trouble with the law." Adolph did not think the kids she hung out with were bad; they just seemed bored with life. "There were no gang members, no drug dealers, no rapists, no killers. They were just bored and lifeless."

This had been why the Penas enrolled Elizabeth in St. Pius X Catholic private school, located in downtown Houston. This turned out to be a bad move, as Elizabeth got into even more trouble. She was removed from the private school after only six weeks. She also had her first sexual relationship with a boy during this time frame.

"I don't know what it was," Adolph recalled, "but something about her from the age of fourteen to fifteen just went a little wild. She just seemed to want to get into trouble."

Elizabeth took out most of her teenage rebelliousness on her parents. "We would argue with her about coming home late or staying on the phone too long or for hanging out with the wrong type of people." Elizabeth would retaliate by running away from home twice.

"She'd sneak out the window and go to somebody's house," Adolph mused, "and I wouldn't find out about it until the next day. I'd be like, 'Where in the hell they at?'"

Elizabeth usually ran away because she was upset with her parents over something trivial. "She had gotten pissed at us and went and stayed with this one gal over at her house. She was harboring her for like two or three days." Adolph ran into the girl's father out in public and said to him, "Dude, do you know you can go to jail for harboring a minor? All you had to do was tell me, 'Hey, your girl's over here.'"


Excerpted from Pure Murder by COREY MITCHELL. Copyright © 2008 Corey Mitchell. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Pure Murder 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 84 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
With so many individuals involved, I was impressed how much background was given and how well the writer keep everything flowing. I did feel some areas were redundant and found myself skipping paragraphs. I was VERY disappointed to find the advertised photos were omitted. I would like an explanation as to why.
coneil More than 1 year ago
this is a very disturbing crime but the book is great. no photos though
Tweetie01 More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to put down...The author did an excellent job at describing how evil these people were and what those poor girls went through. I told my daughter it's a book she should read because it enlightens parents as well as children to the dangers that do exist unfortunately in our society and that just an innocent shortcut to save time cost these girls their future. It's a must read...worth every penny!!!
laineypoz More than 1 year ago
I had never heard of this case despite the fact I live in the Lone Star state so I read the story with great interest. I was disappointed that the Nook version did not include the photos that the paper version promotes. I've looked online to see if the photos were available, but wasn't able to find any. The pictures are important to set the scene in the reader's mind. I can definitely tell the a lot about the author's opinion regarding the death penalty. It would have been a better read if the writing was a little more neutral. The writing boarded on ranting in some chapters. I did think the author did a good job detailing the case. A word of warning that description of the crime is quite graphic. I would certainly read more work from this author.
Kandy Woehler More than 1 year ago
I downloaded to the Nook touch color and NO PHOTOS were downloaded. Having my degree in Psychology and going on to study Forensic Psychology...the photos were the main reason for having bought the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good I purchased to read on my Nook. Like the story but like others I would have liked to see pictures....
Guest More than 1 year ago
While reading you felt so connected to the families and what they were going through. All of us need to know that there are monsters like these that live in our own communities. Very good book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NO pictures just so you know!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the way the author described each person. The story flowed smoothly. It was hard for me to put it down. Finished reading in two days. Did not bore me with trial details. Started the story and smoothly finished it up. Would like to know the outcome of the other guilty participants.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little long but not too bad. And oh yeah.... Where are the pics?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I lived thru times like this as a teen, but was lucky to leave with my life. This book reads like you are right in the thick of things, and the sheer toture these girls go thru will make u want to cry. So realistically written, this book shows the unimaginable cruelty that teens can lower themselves to, and the mob mentality that takes over and will make a teen actually kill for no damn reason but to go along. God bless those poor families left to pick up the mess afterwards, read this book and u will feel the same way.
WickedWitchOfWI More than 1 year ago
This is great book that just does not highlight the crime. It gives you the background of every person. And show's the love and courage the family had in bringing these men to justice. This book truly touched me as a parent and made me question our justice system. Whey these men were allowed to sit so long on taxpayers dollars for taking the lives of 2 young girls is beyond me. A great read and one that touches you and does not leave.
schatzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was only a few years younger than Jennifer Ertman when this crime occurred, and I remember it being mentioned on the nightly news. I bought the book a few years ago, and since I was on a true crime kick, I decided to finally read it.The crime detailed in the book is horrible. Six men, three of them technically juveniles (which is totally arbitrary, how you can be 17 years and 364 days old and your culpability is lessened in the eyes of the law, whereas if you are 18 years and 0 days old, you are suddenly an adult), brutally raped and murdered two girls (aged 14 and 16) on their way home from visiting friends.I found the details in the book to be, at times, overly salacious. I know that true crime, as a genre, is somewhat voyeuristic anyway, but I really didn't need to read about the very gruesome details contained in chapter 18 or about the maggots in one of the victim's genital region (which was mentioned more than once).It's upsetting to read how many chances there were, looking in retrospect, to prevent this crime. If only the men, many of them on probation for various crimes (AND in violation of their parole stipulations), had been been held responsible by their parole officers (who, I acknowledge, are overworked and underpaid). If only those who had been sentenced to counseling had actually gone to the sessions or been held responsible for skipping them. If only they had been caught for prior murders (at least two had been committed, possibly more, before that fateful night in that Houston park).It's also disturbing to see how some of the defendants' parents and lawyers tried to lay some blame on Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena for their brutal deaths. It's absolutely disgusting.The book is a little out of date now. The book shares that Derrick Sean O'Brien had been executed. As of the time of this review, the other two "adult" offenders (Peter Cantu and Joe Medellin) have been executed in Texas for their crimes. Raul Villarreal and Efrain Perez, both being 17 when they raped and helped murder the two girls, had their sentences commuted to life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is so sad. It kept my interest throughout the whole book.
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Lindsie More than 1 year ago
This book is truly captivating. While I do wish the author gave the final details into the other killers; what happened to them, the book was chilling. I can not imagine the sadness and pain the parents of these two girls went through. The book gives introductions into all of the individuals lives. Highly recommended to fans of true crime!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I knew five of these boys who committed this awful crime, three of them are gone now but I did have history with one.. I won't say his name but he wasn't "the leader." I knew Elizabeth Pena too, she was very good friends with my little sister. I remember her very clearly, she was a beauty. I do, however, think the book was put together pretty well with all the information of each individual and such. A good read, but also a past reality. Something that was so bad it still affects me today, 21 years, 1 month and 6 days later.. RIP Elizabeth and Jennifer. Gone But Not Forgotten.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read but so sad, couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The trial was way too long and boring. I feel like some of it had nothing to do with the crime itself. Good read besides that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had me hooked.