|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Officer's efforts helped put investigators on killer's trail
EL PASO, Texas (The Houston Chronicle) -- An investigator in El Paso -- not Texas Ranger Sgt. Drew Carter -- was the first to link two murder cases to Angel Maturino Resendiz, turning several routine murder investigations into a successful, nationwide hunt for a serial killer who now sits on death row.
Carter, who acknowledges someone else provided him with the idea that he was chasing a serial killer, accepted national acclaim and accolades for cracking the case, including an award for Officer of the Year. Carter also was recognized and rewarded for engineering Resendiz's surrender.
Mark Moorhead, a Department of Public Safety special crimes services investigator in El Paso at the time, said he told Carter on May 9, 1999, that he believed the murders of a Weimar couple and a West University Place physician were committed by the same person.
At the time, Maturino Resendiz was suspected in the Dec. 17, 1998, murder of Dr. Claudia Benton of West University Place, but investigators had a different suspect in the May 2, 1999, slayings of Norman "Skip" and Karen Sirnic in Weimar.
"To me, it just hit me that it was just a very, very distinctive type of MO (method of operation), and I called (Carter) and that's when I mentioned to him, `Hey, have you thought about this?' and he said, `No, I hadn't,' " said Moorhead, now assigned to the special crimes services unit in Houston.
During their brief phone conversation on Mother's Day last year, Moorhead said Carter told him DNA evidence, including semen samples, had been taken from both crime scenes.
"I knew they had DNA off both cases," Moorhead said. "That was my suggestion to Drew, that we compare elements (of evidence) from both cases."
After the semen samples had been sent to a DPS lab for examination, Carter called Moorhead the next week to inform him that the DNA evidence linked Maturino Resendiz to both crime scenes.
That connection was first significant break in the search. After investigators realized they were searching for a serial killer, a multiagency task force was formed and the FBI brought its vast resources to the investigation.
After Maturino Resendiz was linked to slayings outside Texas, the Mexican drifter made the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list and became the subject of a nationwide manhunt. By the time of his surrender last July, Maturino Resendiz would be linked to nine killings in three states.
"It was amazing to me that a phone call had set a series of events into play. I was amazed that it turned up that there was this many killings that had shown up," Moorhead said. "The thing went from zero to a hundred in no time."
What also remains puzzling is that until recently, Moorhead's contribution in the case had never been publicly acknowledged.
"I have never.. claimed 100 percent credit"
In interviews with the Houston Chronicle, Carter had never mentioned Moorhead's role in linking the two cases. Carter said he and Texas Ranger Brian Taylor, who was investigating the Sirnic murders, had come to the conclusion after they had compared notes from their investigations.
When asked about Moorhead's role in the investigation, Carter said he was mentioned in his report and referred all questions to Moorhead.
"I have never ever claimed 100 percent credit for anything that went on that," said Carter, who refused to confirm or deny Moorhead's claim that he was the first to link the two murder cases.
"I talked to a lot of people on this case and I had suggestions from a lot of people," Carter said.
Agitated by the inquiry, Carter said he has moved on to new investigations and was no longer answering questions about the Maturino Resendiz case, which led to a capital murder conviction and death sentence last month.
Carter, who broke the case by gaining the trust of Maturino Resendez's family and securing his surrender last July, has been singled out for his work in the investigation.
Last month, Carter was named Officer of the Year by the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Miami. Last November, Texas Attorney General John Cornyn and actor Chuck Norris, who portrays a Texas Ranger on television, presented Carter with the Texas' Peace Officer of the Year award.
Last September, Carter, Taylor and fellow Texas Ranger David Maxwell received Department of Public Safety Director's Citations for their work in the Maturino Resendiz case.
Moorhead, who was contacted by the Chronicle, said he and Carter remain friends and that he had never sought recognition for his role in the case. Their friendship began when the two were state troopers based in Houston. Carter was Moorhead's supervising lieutenant.
Also, both had left the state highway patrol within a few months of each other, Moorhead to special crimes service, and Carter to the Texas Rangers, and both had found themselves as rookie investigators involved in one of the biggest murder investigations in state history.
Moorhead said he was able to make the connection because he had the luxury of viewing state cases from a distance as a special crimes investigator. He said he had reviewed the Benton case and suspected the connection to the Sirnic case during a visit to Houston last year when he read a Chronicle story about the community's reaction to the killings.
"The description in the newspaper was enough that there were some elements that matched with the Benton case," he said.
In both cases, he said, the victims suffered head wounds and were sexually assaulted, the suspect forced his way in and the crimes had been committed near railroad tracks.
Moorhead said he passed the information and his hunch to Carter because he believed it was worth pursuing, and gives most of the credit to Carter for bringing Maturino Resendez.
When asked why he never mentioned Moorhead in previous interviews, Carter answered, "You have to call Moorhead."
'Railway Killer' gets death sentence for murder of Houston-area doctor
More Texas Resources:
CNN/SI City pages:
College Station, TX
El Paso, TX
San Antonio, TX
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.