'Railway Killer' probe expands
New murder attributed to suspect
July 14, 1999
HOUSTON (CNN) -- Eager to plead guilty -- but not yet allowed to -- an alleged serial killer suspected of murders in three states received court-appointed defense attorneys Wednesday and was ordered held without bail.
Meantime, the number of murders attributed to the Mexican drifter believed to have crisscrossed the United States by freight train rose from eight to nine -- six of them in Texas.
The man known as Rafael Resendez-Ramirez appeared in a Houston courtroom in connection with burglary charges stemming from a December murder in that city. Harris County authorities said if DNA evidence links him to that crime, they'll upgrade the charge to murder.
About 200 miles north of Houston, police in Hughes Springs, Texas, said palm prints found at the scene of an October killing match those of the suspect. The victim, 83-year-old Leafie Mason, was killed in her home near railroad tracks.
In another case, a rape victim left for dead identified Maturino Resendez as her assailant Wednesday from a photograph, Lexington, Kentucky assistant Police Chief Fran Root told CNN.
In that attack, the first in a string that began nearly two years ago, her boyfriend, University of Kentucky student Christopher Maier, 21, was beaten to death.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Maturino Resendez in that case.
The suspect, who has used many aliases throughout a months-long manhunt, said during a brief hearing in Houston that his real name is Angel Maturino Resendez.
Secured in handcuffs and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, he stood before Texas District Judge Bill Harmon, who asked the Mexican-born suspect through a translator if he understood his rights in a burglary case linked to one of the killings.
"Si," Maturino Resendez responded in Spanish.
Asked by the judge if he made up the name Rafael Resendez- Ramirez, the suspect said it belonged to "an uncle of mine."
Prosecutors trying to build a death penalty case plan to compare the suspect's DNA, taken from a blood sample, to DNA evidence from the home of Dr. Claudia Benton, whose beaten and stabbed body was found in her Houston home last December.
Harris County Assistant District Attorney Devon Anderson said she hoped the DNA results would be available by the end of next week.
"If what we know about him is true, if the DNA comes back (positive), he is everyone's worst nightmare," she said.
"If it's him, we'll upgrade" the burglary charge to capital murder, Anderson said. Winning a conviction on the more serious charge should be a "slam dunk."
But Alan Tanner, one of two attorneys appointed to represent Maturino Resendez, said he does not know if his client is guilty of anything.
"I'm not even convinced he's done anything yet. All he's been charged with is a burglary in Harris County," said Tanner, who is handling the case with co-counsel Rudy Duarte.
When the judge told Maturino Resendez of the burglary charge and asked if he had any questions, the 39-year-old replied through the translator: "Can all this be done very quickly so I can say I am guilty?"
The comment was not an official plea, prosecutors said, because the purpose of the hearing was to set bond and determine if Maturino Resendez had a defense attorney.
The unofficial admission of guilt was the second time Maturino Resendez has done so.
At an overnight hearing on the burglary case, he also attempted to enter a guilty plea, but the judge would not allow it since the suspect was not represented by an attorney and the charge had not been formally filed.
Within hours of his family-negotiated surrender near El Paso, the suspect was flown Tuesday to Houston, where authorities interrogated him for nearly eight hours about the 1998 slayings of Benton and another Houston woman, Noemi Dominguez.
Sources told CNN Maturino Resendez was "cooperative in supplying details."
He is now suspected of committing six murders in Texas, two in Illinois and one in Kentucky, and is wanted for questioning in as many as 14 other killings, from Miami to Detroit and Phoenix, sources have told CNN.
Most of his alleged victims were bludgeoned to death. Investigators have said they have no idea what motivated the killings.
Investigators say he is linked to each of the murders in different ways, including DNA, fingerprints, jewelry and other items stolen from the victims, all of whom lived near railroad tracks.
The surrender of Maturino Resendez -- arranged by family members in contact with Texas Ranger Drew Carter -- capped a massive international manhunt by thousands of investigators and railroad authorities.
Maturino Resendez, who was placed on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" list of suspects last month, crossed a bridge over the Rio Grande from Mexico to El Paso, Texas, and surrendered to Carter, who was backed by federal agents.
Carter had spent two days negotiating the turnover with the suspect's half-sister, Manuela Maturino, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The single mother was advised by her pastor, Troy Robinson of Hope Chapel Foursquare Gospel Church, to contact the Texas Rangers.
Robinson told CNN Correspondent Aram Roston that the sister had come to him seeking counsel, and told him she did not feel comfortable dealing with the FBI, which was coordinating the manhunt.
After Maturino Resendez turned himself in, the slightly built, clean-shaven suspect was made a brief court appearance in El Paso on the burglary charge before being flown to Houston.
The surrender agreement included assurances of family visits, a psychological evaluation and promises that he would be safe in jail, authorities said.
The agreement does not shield him from the death penalty. Mexico has refused to return suspects to countries where they may face a death penalty, which Mexico does not have.
Texas has executed more people -- 180 -- than any other state since the death penalty was declared constitutional in 1976. Harris County prosecutors have sent more killers to death row than any other county in the nation.
'Railway Killer' suspect surrenders in Texas
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