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Manhunt for 'railway killer' suspect likened to that for Jesse James

June 29, 1999
Web posted at: 10:29 p.m. EDT (0229 GMT)

In this story:

Union Pacific flooded with calls

Police: Suspect adept at slipping over border


ARLINGTON, Texas (CNN) -- The ever-widening manhunt for the suspected "railway killer" is one of the most intense "since the days of Jesse James," a railroad official said Tuesday.

Rafael Resendez-Ramirez has been charged with two killings in Illinois and is wanted for questioning in six other slayings -- five in Texas and one in Kentucky, spurring the FBI, Texas Rangers, railroad police and other law enforcement agencies to launch a nationwide manhunt for him. All of the slayings occurred near railroad tracks.

"I think overall it's been so intense and involved so many agencies that really even our special agents haven't seen (such) a widespread investigation since the days of Jesse James," Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis told CNN.

He said hundreds of railroad police are patrolling Union Pacific's 36,000 miles of track across 23 states. About 2,000 trains a day -- each pulling an average of 72 rail cars -- travel Union Pacific's tracks.

Police say that Resendez-Ramirez is a drifter who has moved around the United States for more than 20 years, primarily by hopping freight trains.

The first of the eight killings allegedly tied to Resendez-Ramirez occurred in 1997. Seven of them have come in the last six months -- four over an 11-day period between June 4 and June 15 -- from Texas north to Illinois.

Union Pacific flooded with calls

In recent weeks, following publicity on the hunt for Resendez-Ramirez, Union Pacific has "noticed a definite increase in calls coming in to us," Davis said.

Virginia Recendis home
Virginia Recendis, the suspect's mother, lives in this home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico  

"Usually we average about maybe a half dozen to a dozen (calls) a day from citizens or law enforcement agencies that have noticed trespassers. That's probably now up to at least eight times that amount," he said.

Resendez-Ramirez was born in Mexico on August 1, 1959, and was given the name Angel Leoncio Reyes Recendis, the FBI said Monday. He has used more than 30 aliases, four birth dates and four Social Security numbers, according to police.

He is also known by three identification numbers by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which has had him in custody at least seven times.

Police: Suspect adept at slipping over border

Police in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from Texas, said Resendez-Ramirez is adept at crossing back and forth over the boundary because he used to make his living by smuggling groups of undocumented Mexican immigrants into the United States.

The fugitive's mother, Virginia Recendis, lives in Juarez in a neighborhood called Patria.

Unlike the massive manhunt for Resendez-Ramirez in the United States, there are no wanted posters of him in sight in Ciudad Juarez or the state of Chihuahua, where the police say they have assigned only two agents to the case.

"There is a warrant out for his arrest. And if and when he is captured, he will be handed over to Interpol, which has the records for the extradition," said Alejandro Astudillo of the Chihuahua attorney general's office.

Some Ciudad Juarez residents say the allegations against Resendez-Ramirez pale in comparison with dozens of local murders that have gone unsolved for six years.

While many of the murders took place less than a mile from the home of Resendez-Ramirez's mother, local police say there is no evidence to link him to any of those cases. They say he has no criminal record in the town.

Correspondent Aram Roston contributed to this report.

Profiler: Suspected railway killer seems out of control
June 28, 1999
Mexican townspeople paint different picture of murder suspect
June 28, 1999
Calls swamp FBI after TV profile of railway murder suspect
June 27, 1999
Suspected killer's uncle: Wrong name used in manhunt
June 26, 1999
Immigration officials held railway killings suspect but let him go
June 25, 1999
How do serial killer suspects elude police?
June 24, 1999
Authorities: Suspected serial killer 'street-smart'
June 24, 1999
Manhunt widens in search of suspected 'Railway Killer'
June 23, 1999

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