Angel Maturino Resendez, also known as Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, is popularly called the Railroad Killer. Rafael Resendez, was a Mexican serial killer who was responsible for as many as 15 murders across the United States and Mexico during the 1990s. Many of his crimes also involved sexual assault. Resendez gained his infamous nickname because most of his crimes were committed near railroads where had jumped off the trains he had been using to travel across the country.
The Railroad Killer's Methods
Resendez’s killings were centered around the railroad. By jumping on and off trains within Mexico, Canada and the United States, Resendez was able to continually and illegally cross borders without detection. Furthermore, Resendez was able to evade authorities for a long time because of his MO. Law enforcement, at the beginning of the investigation into the murders, could not consistently track him because he had no fixed address. Government records also show that he had been deported to Mexico at least four times after his arrival in the States by 1973.
Resendez killed as many as 15 people with a variety of weapons, including rocks, pickaxes, and blunt objects in the homes of his victims. Resendez would stay in the home after the murder in order to eat. He also took family treasures and would often lay out the driver’s license of each of his victims to learn more about their lives. He would also take jewelry and hand them over to his wife when he returned to Mexico. Oddly, Resendez usually left money at the scene and preferred to keep important objects, which ended up being later restored to the family of the victim. Sexual pleasure was a secondary intent for Resendez to murder, as he preferred to take memories of the victim of with him. Resendez would also cover the victim before he left with a blanket to obscure them from the immediate view of others.
Ramirez Found Through IDENT
The investigation first led to Resendez as he was implicated for the killing of Dr. Claudia Benton in December of 1998 near Houston, Texas. In January of 1999, the police obtained a warrant for his arrest and launched an extensive effort to find him. Over the course of the year, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies attempted to form enough task forces to capture Resendez. Resendez was even placed on the FBI’s infamous list of “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.”
A Border Patrol intelligence offer from Del Rio, Texas uncovered that Resendez had been enrolled into a database known as an IDENT, an automated fingerprint identification system. It allowed INS employees to identify and track illegal aliens much like Resendez through electronic comparisons of their fingerprints. The officer discovered that Resendez had actually been apprehended by patrols in Texas and New Mexico and had been returned to Mexico without any law enforcement realizing what Resendez had done up to that point. Resendez would return to the United States in June of 1999 and kill four more people. On July 13, 1999, Resendez eventually surrended to the United States and Texas law enforcement officers near El Paso, Texas.
The police tracked down Resendez’s sister, Manuela, as she feared that her brother would continue to kill others or would be killed during an FBI raid if he was ever caught. She agreed to help the police, assisting a Texas Ranger named Drew Carter to a meet on a bridge between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua in Mexico. This is where Resendez surrended to Carter and was apprehended.
Railroad Killer Trial
Resendez would be tried for the murder of Dr. Claudia Benton. On May 24, 2000, Resendez was found to be guilty of the murder and was also sentenced to the death penalty for his actions. Resendez would continue to appeal, being denied in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. They affirmed the conviction and his sentence. Resendez filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court, and was also denied. Subsequent later appeals by Resendez and his lawyers to the Texas Court of Appeals and US District Courts were denied and the case was eventually closed for Resendez.
It is reported that as execution witnesses filled the chambers to witness Resendez’s execution, the killer nodded towards them and apologized for his crimes against their families. "I want to ask if it is in your heart to forgive me," Maturino Resendez said in a quiet voice. "You don't have to. I know I allowed the devil to rule my life. I just ask you to forgive me and ask the Lord to forgive me for allowing the devil to deceive me. "I thank God for having patience with me. I don't deserve to cause you pain. You did not deserve this. I deserve what I am getting."
Death and Law Enforcement Lessons
Rafael Resendez’s execution was held in Huntsville, Texas on June 27, 2006. One of the most notable failures of law enforcement in this case was the fact that through IDENT, law enforcement had Resendez in their custody for a significant period of time. IDENT has been more proactively used since Resendez’s case in identifying illegal immigrants who have been considered felons in the eyes of the law. It is reported that many of the officers were not familiar with the IDENT system and law enforcement across the United States have been trained in how to use the system. It is speculated that while law enforcement acted in accordance with procedures for IDENT use during the time of Resendez’s apprehension, further developed and more serious cases against potential felons within IDENT could have posed a significant risk.