'Railway Killer' suspect surrenders in Texas
July 13, 1999
EL PASO, Texas (CNN) -- Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, the rail-riding fugitive suspected of killing at least eight people, surrendered Tuesday to U.S. border authorities in Texas and will be brought to Houston later in the day, the FBI said.
Resendez-Ramirez, 38, turned himself in after relatives -- who had knowledge of his whereabouts -- contacted authorities who then began secret negotiations to win the suspect's surrender.
"It was a surrender and it was based on some negotiations that we've been conducting over the last few days," FBI Director Louis Freeh told a congressional hearing in Washington.
Resendez-Ramirez walked across the Mexican border at 9 a.m. accompanied by his brother, a Mexican citizen, the Justice Department said. He surrendered at the Immigration and Naturalization Service port of entry in Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Texas, near El Paso.
He was to be brought before a federal magistrate in El Paso, before being taken to Houston, where authorities suspect him of two killings last year. His brother was allowed to enter the United States and accompany him.
Julieta Dominguez, the suspect's common-law wife, was questioned last week in Houston, where she was flown from her home in Rodeo, Mexico. Sources told CNN she provided information about Resendez-Ramirez and his frequent travels.
She has urged her husband to give himself up, worried that bounty hunters might kill him, the sources said. A $125,000 reward was posted for the fugitive's arrest after he was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list two weeks ago.
Don Clark, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, has described Dominguez and her family as distraught over the allegations against Resendez-Ramirez. "She would like to see this come to a halt so her life can regain its normalcy," he told CNN on Sunday.
Texas Rangers have seized jewelry and clothing from the couple's home in Mexico that authorities believe may be linked to his victims. The items include 100 pieces of jewelry -- rings, bracelets, earrings and watches.
Resendez-Ramirez has been charged with two murders in Illinois and is wanted for questioning in six others -- five in Texas and one in Kentucky. All of the victims were killed in homes near railroad tracks.
In addition, he is a possible suspect in at least 14 other murders throughout the country, sources have told CNN.
Resendez-Ramirez is one of many aliases the suspect has used.
His real name is Angel Leoncio Reyes Recendis, according to a birth certificate. But because most of the public knew the wanted man as Resendez-Ramirez, the FBI continued to use that name.
Up until the surrender, his ability to elude law enforcement had been an embarrassment, topped by his release to Mexico by Border Patrol agents June 2, although he was wanted by the FBI, and the Houston police had earlier told the immigration service it wanted him for questioning in a murder.
Two days after his release, authorities believe, he killed a 73-year-old woman west of Houston. The following day, they say, he killed a 26-year-old Houston schoolteacher at her home.
His fingerprints then were found June 15 in Gorham, Illinois, at the scene of the slaying of a 79-year-old man and his 51-year-old daughter, police said.
In addition, Lexington, Kentucky, police obtained warrants last month for Resendez-Ramirez' arrest in connection with the August 1997 murder of University of Kentucky student Christopher Maier, who was attacked with his girlfriend as they walked near some railroad tracks.
The girlfriend, who was raped, survived. The charges are murder, two counts of first-degree robbery and single counts of rape and assault.
The Maier slaying was the earliest of the eight killings in which Resendez-Ramirez has been charged or is wanted for questioning.
INS officials said that when Resendez-Ramirez was in the custody of the Border Patrol, which apprehended him for illegal entry into the country, they didn't have any information on his criminal records or of any outstanding warrants.
But Immigration Commissioner Doris Meissner said the INS, parent of the Border Patrol, had multiple entries on Resendez-Ramirez in a computerized photo and fingerprint database that provides immediate identification of aliens apprehended by the Border Patrol.
That computer system also is supposed to record lookouts for individuals wanted by other law enforcement agencies but neither the FBI nor Houston police interests in him were recorded there.
The Justice Department inspector general has been ordered to investigate why the computer did not contain those requests.
INS first encountered Resendez-Ramirez in 1976 after he was arrested in Michigan. He was returned to Mexico, but since that time has been deported from the United States on three occasions -- in 1985, 1987 and 1991. He was also apprehended by Border Patrol agents eight times since January 1998.
Meissner said the Justice inspector general would look at why Resendez-Ramirez "was not detained and whether INS knew about Resendez-Ramirez criminal activities after being contacted by local law enforcement earlier this year."
Justice Department Correspondent Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.
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