Killer of 7-year-old girl executed Tuesday
A former plumbing supply salesman convicted of snatching a 7-year-old girl
from his neighborhood then strangling and raping her and hiding her body
in his attic was executed Tuesday.
Asked by the warden if he had a final statement, Eric Nenno replied, "No,
8 minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow, he was pronounced dead at
6:20 p.m. CDT.
The girl's father and grandfather were among the witnesses, but Nenno did
not acknowledge them. Nicole Benton's grandfather walked up to the window
separating him from Nenno and then turned around and walked to the back of
Nenno, 47, confessed to the abduction and attack on Nicole 2 days after
she disappeared from her dad's birthday party almost 14 years ago. Then he
led officers to her remains in his home in Hockley, about 35 miles
northwest of Houston.
"It's a parent's worst nightmare," Joan Huffman, the Harris County
assistant district attorney who prosecuted Nenno at his 1996 trial,
recalled. "Mr. Nenno was an evil person."
Nenno's appeals were exhausted and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
voted unanimously against commuting his sentence to life.
In a recent interview from death row, Nenno took responsibility for the
girl's death and said he was prepared to die.
"My salvation is secure," he told The Associated Press. "I know where I'm
going when this is all over."
Asked where that would be, he replied: "Heaven."
Nenno, born in Olean, N.Y., went to high school in nearby Smethport, Pa.,
then joined the Navy, where his attorneys said he was exposed to toxic
chemicals during a four-year duty tour that left him brain damaged.
Nenno, however, said nothing could excuse his crime.
"I can't apologize enough," he said.
He lured the girl from his front yard into his house by telling her he
needed to retrieve a guitar so he could join her father's band playing at
the birthday celebration down the street. Once inside, he attacked her,
strangled her to keep her quiet, then raped her at least twice after she
Police investigating her disappearance knocked on his door and when his
nervousness attracted their attention, deputies had him accompany them to
a command post.
Under questioning, Nenno said he thought the girl had been abducted, raped
and murdered. Asked what kind of person he thought might do such a thing,
he replied: "Someone like me."
"I was not cognizant I had committed the crime," he said from death row.
"I had blacked out the memory."
He took a polygraph and underwent additional questioning.
"Things kind of fell apart," recalled Anthony Osso, Nenno's trial lawyer.
"I think she's still in the attic," Nenno told detectives.
In his confession, Nenno said he'd been having sexual fantasies involving
young girls for most of his adult life.
"There was no evidence to suggest he ever acted on those fantasies," Osso
said. "But for the most part, when you confess to elements of an offense,
you make it much easier for the state. His statement led them to the body.
He himself took them to it."
From death row, Nenno said he was addicted to pornography and had been
drinking the day of the slaying.
"During the years that I have been imprisoned, I have often thought about
the devastating grief and pain I caused Nicole Benton, her family, and her
friends," he wrote in the clemency petition rejected by the parole board.
"There is no excuse nor rationale which would be sufficient to justify
this heinous act of violence perpetrated by me."
Osso said he believed Nenno's remorse was sincere.
"It's a sad case for all involved," he said. "It ripped apart Nicole
Benton's family, and they were genuinely nice people. I don't think
anybody could ever grasp the horror of that situation."
Huffman said she remembered questioning a medical examiner at Nenno's
trial about the girl's fatal injuries.
"That had to be one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life," she
said. "The family, they were right in back of me on the front row. I could
hear them quietly crying. Some of the jurors were crying. It was
"She had been strangled and brutally raped and then she was raped again
after she was dead. That's what the evidence showed. How could anyone sit
in a courtroom and listen to testimony that that had happened to their 7
Nenno becomes the 13th condemned Texas inmate to be put to death this year
and 4th this month in the nation's most active death penalty state.
Another execution is scheduled for Thursday. He becomes the 418th
condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since the state resumed
capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982, and the 179th overall since Rick Perry
became Governor of Texas in 2001. On Thursday, Gregory Wright, 42, was set
to follow Nenno to the death chamber. Wright was a homeless man convicted
of taking part in the fatal stabbing of Donna Duncan Vick, a sympathetic
Dallas County woman who had given him food, shelter and money. Another 6
Texas prisoners have execution dates for November.
Nenno becomes the 29th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1128th overall since the nation resumed executions on
Janaury 17, 1977.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Child Killer Gets Death Penalty
Jurors on Tuesday delivered a death sentence to convicted child killer
Medina was found guilty in September of fatally shooting his 3-year-old
and 8-month-old in May 2007 after the children's mother told authorities
he abused her.
He also shot himself in the neck.
The sentencing phase of Medina's trial was put on hold Monday after his
court-appointed attorney was taken into custody for contempt.
She had refused to go forward with her case because she said her key
witnesses would not be available until next year.