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Authorities: Suspected serial killer 'street-smart'

graphic  Map of crime trail

How do serial killer suspects elude police?

FBI wanted poster and information

Description of Rafael Resendez-Ramirez:
  • Age: 38 (Born August 1, 1960)
  • Height: 5-foot-7 inches
  • Weight: 140-50 pounds
  • Hair: Black
  • Eyes: Brown
  • Tattoo: Faded snake on left forearm
  • Scars: Forehead, left arm and wrist
    Resendez-Ramirez has a long history with the law. CNN's Carol Lin has a timeline of his run-ins with authorities.
    Windows Media 28K 80K

    What are the motives of a serial killer? CNN's Susan Candiotti has the report. (June 23)
    Windows Media 28K 80K
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    In this story:

    FBI hopes public tips will lead to capture

    Confirmed sightings in Kentucky

    Suspect's family in 'state of denial'


    June 24, 1999
    Web posted at: 9:08 p.m. EDT (0108 GMT)

    LEXINGTON, Kentucky (CNN) -- Authorities in Kentucky warned people Thursday not to underestimate the intelligence of suspected serial killer Rafael Resendez-Ramirez. They said the Mexican-born murder suspect has tutored people in algebra, geometry and English and no one should think of him as an uneducated person with little knowledge of the United States.

    "Rafael Ramirez is street-smart. He's probably lucky getting around on the rails and through the country as he does, but he's certainly someone who has some sense of intelligence about him," said Lexington police Sgt. Mark Barnard, adding, "I wouldn't take him for granted."

    Barnard also noted that the suspect has a history of stealing cars so he is not limited to train travel.

    Resendez-Ramirez is wanted in connection with a series of vicious killings. All of them took place at night, near train tracks -- including two last week in Illinois. He was formally charged Monday with the Illinois killings.

    He is wanted for questioning in six more killings -- five in Texas and one in Kentucky.

    The first of the eight killings took place in 1997, and four of them occurred during the last few weeks. That has led authorities to fear the killing spree has intensified.

    FBI hopes public tips will lead to capture

    Sources close to the investigation said the serial killer works slowly, methodically and may even take pleasure in watching the victims die. They also said that the killer covered his victims with blankets and left a signature at each crime scene -- although they wouldn't say what it was.

    Investigators said anyone who spots Resendez-Ramirez should call police and not try any heroics. Reward money totaling $250,000 is being offered for information leading to his arrest.

    The FBI, hoping tips from the public will help lead to the his capture, released a new photograph of Resendez-Ramirez on Thursday showing him with a receding hairline and a scraggly beard, wearing glasses.

    "We have a very dangerous, violent person out there that's been connected to eight homicides across this country that we know of, and what we really want to do is to get as much information as possible to try to catch him," said FBI task force leader Don Clark.

    As of Thursday, telephone tips and information provided by the public have produced more than 1,150 leads, Clark told reporters in Houston, where the FBI is coordinating its nationwide manhunt.

    Confirmed sightings in Kentucky

    Barnard said there were confirmed sightings of Resendez-Ramirez from June 16 through June 18 at homeless shelters in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. The suspect reportedly was wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and a baseball cap.

    Resendez-Ramirez is suspected of committing an August 1997 slaying in Lexington, but he has not been tied to any killings in Louisville.

    Interviews with witnesses in Louisville indicated the suspect was headed back into the Lexington area to perform migrant work. Investigators located a farm in Russell County in southern Kentucky where he had worked in 1996 and 1998.

    Investigators also uncovered a photo taken after he was arrested near railroad tracks in 1996.

    Police said Resendez-Ramirez has earned money in the past by donating blood and working on cars.

    The suspect, authorities said, had been in touch with relatives in Lexington "within the last few days."

    Assistant Police Chief Fran Root described the relatives as being cooperative when interviewed. Root declined to identify who was interviewed, their relation to Resendez-Ramirez or anything about the conversation.

    Barnard told CNN that local investigators and FBI agents took part in the interviews and that the family members provided "important information."

    "We're four days behind him, and we're getting closer. We know he's been in Kentucky and he's been here," Barnard said.

    Resendez-Ramirez is believed to have stayed at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul shelter in Louisville recently  

    Suspect's family in 'state of denial'

    Resendez-Ramirez also has family members in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, and is believed to have visited the area recently, the FBI said Wednesday.

    "They didn't comment as to whether they thought he did it or did not do it," said Texas Ranger Drew Carter. "I think I would describe them as being in a state of denial -- because he's a loved one and family member they're going to wait and see."

    Federal agents are also waiting to see if Resendez-Ramirez contacts those family members again.

    "He has been seen in the area here several times ... and we would expect that he might be coming here again as he travels up north and comes back," FBI Agent Al Cruz said Wednesday.

    Resendez-Ramirez "travels the rails, we know that," Cruz said, "and I think that the citizens need to be aware of that, especially the citizens here in El Paso and Juarez."

    The FBI has said that Resendez-Ramirez, described as a train-riding drifter with many aliases and disguises, could be anywhere in North America. He was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list of suspects Monday.

    Correspondent Charles Zewe contributed to this report.

    Manhunt widens in search of suspected 'Railway Killer'
    June 23, 1999
    FBI profilers: Suspected serial killer expected to kill again, soon
    June 22, 1999
    FBI places suspected 'Railway Killer' on Most Wanted list
    June 21, 1999
    'Railway Killer' set for FBI's Ten Most Wanted list
    June 18, 1999
    FBI hunts for suspected serial killer who may travel by rail
    June 11, 1999

    Federal Bureau of Investigation
      • The FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives
    The Serial Killer Info Site
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