Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Tuesday, February 16, 1999

MEDIA ADVISORY

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Andrew Cantu who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. Tuesday, February 16, 1999.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

Andrew Cantu was convicted for the capital offense of murdering Mandell Eugene "Gene" Summers, Helen Summers, and Billy Mack Summers on June 11, 1990, during the same criminal transaction, in the course of committing burglary of a habitation, in the course of committing robbery, in the course of committing arson, and for remuneration and the promise of remuneration from Gregory Lynn Summers, which had been alleged in a single count of the indictment in the alternative. that day, was introduced to Summers. After talking with Summers outside, Cantu came inside to inform Aguirre that he [Cantu] had a job to do -- kill three old people; he explained that the intended victims were Summers' parents and asked for Aguirre's assistance. Aguirre declined to help in any way, using the fact that he was on probation as an excuse. Later that same night, Cantu borrowed his brother's black sweat pants and sweat shirt, and paced in and out of the house as if waiting for someone, but no one arrived.

Early on June 11, 1990, the offense date, Summers and Cantu were riding in Summers' truck and approached Aguirre and asked him to contact his cousin, Ramon Gonzales. Aguirre was unable to contact him, but Gonzales learned of the attempt to reach him, and thinking that Aguirre was having gang troubles, Gonzales came to Abilene from Haskell with a friend, Paul Flores. Gonzales had previously only briefly met Cantu, and Flores met him that day. While riding around with Gonzales, Flores, and Aguirre, Cantu asked if they would "waste" three old people whose adopted son wanted them killed. Cantu added that he would be paid with money, jewelry, and guns in the house, and from insurance policies collected later. When the others refused to help, Cantu changed the subject to burglary of a house. Gonzales and Flores agreed to join in the burglary.

Aguirre declined to become involved in any criminal activity because of his probation status.

Gonzales dropped Cantu off at his house then took Aguirre home. Aguirre attempted to dissuade the others from assisting Cantu and believed they were homebound when last he saw them. However, Gonzales and Flores returned to pick up Cantu, who had again borrowed his brother's

black sweat pants and shirt, explaining to his brother that he was going to pull a "heist." The three then went to a grocery store where Cantu purchased lighter fluid, gloves, pantyhose, and a cap. The cashier later identified Cantu and remembered some of the items he purchased. Cantu had earlier that day bought a knife from Flores. They then rode around before setting out for the house to be burglarized.

Sometime near midnight, they drove through an alley behind the Summers' residence. Cantu was dropped off in the alley behind the house and cut the telephone line. Gonzales picked up Cantu, drove to a nearby street and parked. The three got out and walked toward the alley behind the Summers' home. Cantu carried the knife and lighter fluid. A neighbor, seated on her unlit porch, saw three men and remembered that one was carrying a knife which shone in the streetlamp's light.

The three men entered the Summers' yard through a back gate. Cantu cut a hole in a back window screen and crawled into the house. By the time Gonzales and Flores had crawled inside, Cantu was already stabbing Gene Summers, who was lying in his bed. Cantu threatened to "waste" Gonzales and Flores if they attempted to leave, then proceeded to the living room where he repeatedly stabbed Helen Summers as she sat sleeping in a recliner. Cantu ordered Flores and Gonzales to search the house for the promised money before proceeding to a front bedroom where he murdered Billy Mack Summers.

Angry that Gonzales and Flores had not found it, Cantu ransacked the house looking for the money himself but found none of the promised money. Before leaving the scene, Cantu doused the bedroom with lighter fluid and set it on fire. As they drove from the scene, ambulance and fire truck sirens could be heard heading in the direction of the Summers' home. When Cantu ordered Flores to "get rid" of the knife, Flores, called "slow poke" for his mental prowess, threw it out the car window. This infuriated Cantu. The bloody knife was found by a woman mowing her lawn.

The three went to the home of Cantu's uncle, where Cantu chided Gonzales and Flores for their failure to find the promised money and searched them for it, accusing them of theft. Cantu threatened to kill Flores and Gonzales if they had the money or talked about the incident. Flores and Gonzales returned to Haskell.

The following morning, June 12, 1990, in a highly uncharacteristic manner, Cantu asked his brother if he had seen the news. Alerted by the strangeness of the question, his brother watched the midday news and learned about the triple murders. Knowing Cantu and that the victims were Greg Summers' parents, he asked him whether he had been involved in the murders. Cantu denied involvement. Later that week, his brother again asked Cantu if he had any part in the murders; disgusted by the answer, he called the police and made a statement on June 19, 1990. Aguirre also asked Cantu about the murders; Cantu confessed that he had committed them and complained about not having been paid.

On June 15, 1990, Keenan Wilcox contacted the police. Wilcox, an acquaintance of Summers, reported that Summers had approached him in the recent past, attempting to hire him to murder his parents and uncle, and to burn their house down. Summers offered to pay Wilcox from insurance money and case in the house. Wilcox's suspicions were aroused upon reading the details of the murders and the victim's identities in the newspaper.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On January 16, 1991, Cantu was indicted in the 104th Judicial District Court of Taylor County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering Mandell Eugene "Gene" Summers, Helen Summers, and Billy Mack Summers on June 11, 1990, during the same criminal transaction, in the course of committing burglary of a habitation, in the course of committing robbery, in the course of committing arson, and for remuneration and the promise of remuneration from Gregory Lynn Summers, alleged in a single count in the alternative. Cantu was tried by a jury, which on May 29, 1991, found him guilty as charged. On May 31, 1991, following a separate punishment hearing, the jury answered affirmatively the two special sentencing issues submitted pursuant to TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. ANN. art. 37.071(b) (Vernon Supp. 1990). In accordance with state law, the trial court assessed punishment at death.

Cantu's conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Counsel was appointed to represent Cantu on direct appeal. However, Cantu moved the district court to dismiss his counsel and to proceed pro se. Before the request was ruled on, counsel filed a brief as did Cantu. Thereafter, the trial court held a hearing and found that Cantu made a "competent, intelligent" choice to proceed pro se. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction on May 25, 1994, and, after Cantu had obtained assistance of a second attorney, denied rehearing on September 21, 1994. A third attorney then filed a filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on Cantu's behalf. Cantu moved to dismiss this attorney and the Texas Resource Center from all involvement in his case, then the Supreme Court denied certiorari review on February 21, 1995.

On March 1, 1995, the 104th Judicial District Court of Taylor County scheduled Cantu's execution for April 18, 1995. After a federal court granted Cantu a stay of execution, Cantu was appointed a fourth counsel for preparation of a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus. On September 22, 1995, the federal court dismissed the federal action without prejudice in order for Cantu to pursue a state application for writ of habeas corpus.

On August 19, 1996, the Court of Criminal Appeals appointed a fifth counsel to represent Cantu and allowed him 180 days to file a writ application in the state habeas trial court. However, this counsel was permitted to withdraw after it was learned that he had represented Summers on direct appeal. A sixth attorney was appointed for Cantu on September 12, 1996, but was permitted to withdraw due to a conflict with Cantu. On March 13, 1997, a seventh attorney was appointed for Cantu. On July 1, 1997, Cantu however moved to dismiss this counsel and to proceed pro se. After a hearing, Cantu was granted permission to proceed pro se on his application for state writ of habeas corpus. On September 19, 1997, an eighth attorney requested permission to represent Cantu and Cantu thereafter requested that the motion be granted. On October 7, 1997, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Cantu's motion, and denied reconsideration on November 19, 1997. Cantu never filed a state application for writ of habeas corpus. On October 14, 1998, the 104th District court entered an order scheduling Cantu's execution for December 3, 1998.

On November 3, 1998, Cantu filed a motion for appointment of counsel and stay of execution with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Abilene Division. The state opposed the stay of execution and appointment of counsel with regard to preparation of a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus and requested that any attempt at federal habeas review be found to be barred by limitations. The state did not oppose the appointment of counsel to assist Cantu in the resolution of the statute of limitations issue. On November 16, 1998, the district court entered an order denying the appointment of counsel and stay of execution. On November 25, 1998, Cantu filed notice of appeal. On December 2, 1998, the Fifth Circuit affirmed. However, the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution, although the Court subsequently denied a petition for writ of certiorari on January 11, 1999.

On February 12, 1999, Cantu simultaneously filed motions for a stay of execution in state and federal courts, claiming that a witness against him at trial, Paul Flores, had recanted his incriminating statements against Cantu. The federal district court denied the requested stay that same day. Later that day, Cantu withdrew an appeal in the Fifth Circuit from the denial of the motion for stay. The motion for stay, and now accompanied by an application for state writ of habeas corpus, are pending in state court.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

During the punishment phase of trial, the state presented "prison packets" showing that Cantu had been convicted of burglary of a habitation committed in January 1988. The judgment in that case reflected a sentence of five years which was to run concurrently with another five-year conviction on a plea of guilty in a separate cause reflecting the same date. Police officers from Jones County, Merkel, and Callahan County, testified that Cantu had confessed to committing various burglaries within their respective jurisdictions.

A deputy sheriff testified that Cantu had been assaultive and disruptive on several occasions while he was pending trial on the instant capital murder charge. Another officer testified that Cantu had a reputation for being violent and dangerous.

Max Aguirre testified that he had known Cantu about one and a half or two years, and that Cantu often made his living selling "crank." Aguirre had also seen Cantu's propensity for violence: Cantu had offered Aguirre fifty dollars to shoot a man, Cantu carried a gun "when necessary," Aguirre saw Cantu carry an Uzi to a fight, Cantu bragged that he shot up a car with three people inside and laughed at how he had them "kissing the floorboard," and, on one occasion, Cantu gave Aguirre a gun and told him to shoot a man he did not know or trust if "anything went down."

James Rogers testified that he was present when Cantu made a purchase of cocaine at a party in Dallas. While en route to another location, Cantu pulled a shotgun and laid it on his lap. Cantu told Rogers if they were stopped by the cops he was going to kill them. Later, Cantu became angry with Rogers and told him if he ever saw him in Abilene he would probably blow his head off.

Against the advice of his attorneys, Cantu elected to testify at the punishment phase. Cantu claimed that he was not guilty and gave an alibi story for his whereabouts on the night of the murders, claiming that he had gone to Fort Worth to buy drugs. Cantu also claimed his confessions to the 1988 burglaries were not voluntarily made. Cantu said he had other persons "hitting" houses for him, but that he never entered any of the houses himself. Cantu claimed he was wrongfully charged in Fort Worth with attempted murder.

In rebuttal, a deputy sheriff testified that he was present when statements were taken from Cantu regarding the 1988 burglaries and that Cantu was not threatened into signing the confessions. Another officer testified that Cantu gave him a statement regarding his whereabouts on the night of the murders and that Cantu did not tell him he had gone to Fort Worth. Rather, Cantu told him he had gone riding and visiting with some friends.

DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL

Although Cantu has a history related to drug activity, there was no evidence of drug use in connection with the instant offense.

SCHEDULED EXECUTIONS

02/24/99     Norman Evans Green (Bexar County)
03/18/99     Steven Kenneth Staley (Tarrant County)
03/25/99     Charles Rector (Travis)
03/25/99     Jeffrey Carlton Doughtie (Nueces)
04/13/99     David Earl Gibbs (Montgomery County)
04/28/99     Aaron Christopher Foust (Tarrant)
05/04/99     Jose De La Cruz (Nueces)
05/05/99     Clydell Coleman (McClennan)

MISCELLANEOUS

If this execution is carried out, it will be the 170th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 6th since General Cornyn took office.

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Contact Ted Delisi, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050