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By COREY MITCHELL
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2008 Corey Mitchell
All rights reserved.
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.CHAPTER 2
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..
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