'Railway Killer' suspect due in Houston court today
Suspect's sister arranged surrender
July 14, 1999
HOUSTON (CNN) -- Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, the rail-riding fugitive suspected of killing at least eight people, faced a court appearance Wednesday in Houston, where he was brought under heavy guard following his surrender to U.S. authorities on the Mexico-Texas border.
Resendez-Ramirez turned himself in to U.S. border authorities on Tuesday near El Paso and was transferred later to Houston. The hearing there on Wednesday is in connection with a burglary charge linked to one of the murders.
His incarceration in the Harris County jail comes after a month-long nationwide manhunt and two days of secret negotiations between law enforcement personnel and the suspect's sister in New Mexico.
FBI officials said Resendez-Ramirez had been hiding in Mexico and gave himself up because of "intense pressure" created by the $125,000 bounty on his head.
"He was as widely known and wanted in Mexico as he was in the U.S.," said Don Clark, the Houston-based FBI agent in charge of the manhunt. "There was no place for him to run."
Clark said that, in his opinion, the reward money should go to Manuela Maturino, Resendez-Ramirez's sister in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who negotiated his surrender.
"The investigative process did exactly what it was supposed to do," Clark said. "It left no place to turn."
Investigators involved in the manhunt described him as "a particularly heinous fugitive." The 39-year-old native of Mexico was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list.
He is a suspect in eight killings in Texas, Illinois and Kentucky and is wanted for questioning in as many as 14 others, from Miami to Detroit and Phoenix, sources have told CNN.
Texas Ranger Capt. Bruce Casteel said Resendez-Ramirez's surrender followed two days of "intense" discussions between U.S. authorities and Maturino, who maintained contact with the suspect in Mexico through a brother.
Casteel said he was not sure whether the suspect was contacted by his sister or whether he contacted her. "I think it's very crucial that she became involved," he said, adding that a clergy member close to the family also played a role.
Law enforcement officials said the sister called Texas Ranger Drew Carter on Sunday to arrange the surrender, which took place at 9:05 a.m. Tuesday at the Immigration and Naturalization Service port of entry in Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Texas, near El Paso.
Carter met the suspect as he crossed the bridge connecting Mexico and the United States.
"Carter told me he extended his hands, they shook hands and he surrendered," Casteel said. "He was very pleasant. He was not aggressive."
At a court appearance in El Paso, a handcuffed and shackled Resendez-Ramirez wore dirty jeans, work boots and gold-rimmed glasses. He was unshaven and his hair was medium length. Investigators had said he disguised himself, sometimes wearing glasses, sometimes growing facial hair.
In court, he said nothing other than to tell the magistrate he had no questions. But once in Houston, after nearly eight hours of questioning by police, Resendez-Ramirez tried to plead guilty to the burglary charge.
He was rebuffed, pending Wednesday's hearing.
Investigators say he is linked to the murders by DNA, fingerprints and jewelry and other items stolen from the victims, all of whom lived near railroad tracks.
Harris County officials in Houston said they obtained a warrant to take a sample of the suspect's blood to compare it to DNA found at the crime scenes.
Justice Department Correspondent Pierre Thomas and Charles Zewe contributed to this report.
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