HOUSTON - On the day his murder trial was scheduled to begin, the man accused of gunning down a teenage girl in North Houston pleaded guilty in exchange for 35 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Gabriel Cantu, who was 18 when the crime occurred, shot Victoria Cantu in the back with an AK-47, killing her almost instantly. The victim and gunman are not related.
“To somehow make sense of it all, and somehow go on and carry on, it's just torture for us, every single day,” Victoria Cantu’s mother, Nicole Keddie, said.
Many of Victoria Cantu's family members are not happy with the plea deal, Keddie said, because they hoped for more time.
“They are really upset about it,” Keddie said. “However, I try to weigh both sides, and 35 years to me is a pretty substantial amount of time.”
Keddie will attend every parole hearing for Gabriel Cantu, she said.
“My lifelong mission (is) to try and fight as hard as I can to keep him there as long as possible,” Keddie said.
Gabriel Cantu broke down in tears before the plea deal was made, Keddie said. But they were selfish tears, she guessed.
“Had he shown any kind of remorse or regret or anything, I think it would make it a little easier,” Keddie said.
Prosecutors said both Cantus and others were at an amateur car show in North Houston when the red Acura Victoria Cantu was riding in came close to hitting Gabriel Cantu and other onlookers.
They chased the red Acura out of the parking lot, and Gabriel Cantu started shooting, prosecutors said.
Victoria Cantu was not the target, but a bullet entered the Acura through the trunk and went into the back seat, where she was sitting.
The driver of the Acura, who Keddie said Victoria Cantu did not know, pulled into a nearby Whataburger.
Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.
Two weeks later, Gabriel Cantu was arrested in the woods near his grandmother’s house. He fled when officers closed in. Prosecutors said he was raising money to flee to Mexico.
Victoria Cantu would have been 18 now, likely a freshman in college. It's an alternate reality Keddie can’t stop imagining.
“None of our lives will ever be the same. Ever,” Keddie said. “It’s changed us in ways that I couldn't even begin to put into words.”
Keddie hopes to connect with support groups for parents whose children have been murdered. If you can help, leave a comment below.
Copyright 2018 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.