Juan Martin Cantu
For more than a decade, Juan Martin Cantu lived with his wife in a ramshackle house near the Gulf Coast of Texas and worked odd jobs. On the side this model neighbor had a life as a hit man. The truth came out after Cantu was arrested on a charge of felony marijuana possession. During his interrogation, he admitted he had served time in Texas and Mexican prisons and that he also was responsible for 26 murders for which he had never been charged, precinct Deputy Constable George Gavito said. "I asked him, 'Do you get off on this, get a joy from it?' And he smiles and he tells me, 'You know, it gives me a thrill," Gavito said.
Cantu, jailed under the name Juan Martin Medrano, has a criminal record in Texas that dates to at least 1974, when he was convicted of burglary. After at least two more felony convictions for lesser offenses, he confessed in 1978 to six slayings, Gavito said. He was transferred to a Mexican prison under the terms of a 1970s treaty that allows foreign nationals to transfer to facilities in their home countries, but he was released four years later, police said. He had been living in Laguna Heights since at least 1991.
Cantu, 46, grew up the son of a poor rancher in the small Mexican state of Morelos. His first victim apparently had threatened his brother. By 17, he had become a contract killer, Gavito said. "He sat down with me and he told me that he started to kill people when he was 14," Gavito said.
Gavito said Cantu placed the unsolved murders in several Mexican cities: Vera Cruz, Ciudad Juarez and Matamoros. He also said he killed people in Brownsville, Houston and Dallas; in Naples and Jacksonville, Fla.; and in Alabama. Investigator Lt. Joe Garcia said Cantu had been a known hit man for drug kingpin Cacho Espinosa.