Lawyer says 'Railway Killer' suspect unaware he faced death penalty
July 15, 1999
From staff and wire reports
HOUSTON (CNN) -- The attorney for the suspected "Railway Killer" says his client was unaware that he could face execution when he surrendered to authorities in Texas.
Court-appointed attorney Allen Tanner said Thursday that Texas officials had not referred to the death penalty in negotiations with serial killer suspect Angel Maturino Resendez and his family.
"They told him that if he turned himself in he would be treated humanely and if they attempt to seek the death penalty he does not consider that to be treated humanely," Tanner said.
U.S. authorities believe Maturino Resendez, a 39-year-old Mexican national, has killed at least nine people. He surrendered on the Texas side of the border with Mexico on Tuesday.
During a Wednesday bail hearing on a burglary charge, the rail-hopping fugitive who triggered a nationwide manhunt appeared anxious to acknowledge his guilt.
As Harris County prosecutors described the bloody killing of a Houston woman whose home was burglarized, the suspect made a request. "Can all this be done very quickly so I can say I'm guilty?" Maturino Resendez asked District Judge Bill Harmon, who told him no plea could be taken yet and denied bond.
It was unclear whether Maturino Resendez was specifically addressing the burglary charge or the more serious allegations against him.
Until Wednesday, he had been charged with two slayings in Illinois and one in Kentucky, and was suspected of five Texas killings.
Shortly after the Houston hearing, however, the total reached nine when prosecutors in Cass County charged him with the October 2 robbery-slaying of 87-year-old Leafie Mason.
Mason was bludgeoned in her home in Hughes Springs, about 230 miles north of Houston.
A conviction for the capital murder charge carries a punishment of life imprisonment or execution in Texas, which carries out more executions than any other state.
"If anybody deserves a death penalty, this man does. We have a good case," said Randal Lee, the district attorney for Cass County.
The only other count against Maturino Resendez in Texas is burglary at the scene where Dr. Claudia Benton, 39, was killed December 17 in her Houston home.
The decision of whether to charge Maturino Resendez with capital murder in Benton's death rests with Harris County District Attorney Johnny Holmes. Prosecutors said DNA evidence might link him to her slaying.
Mason, who lived most of her life within 50 yards of a Kansas City-Southern rail line that bisects Hughes Springs, was beaten to death with her antique iron by someone who entered her home through a window, according to police.
Like several other victims Maturino Resendez is suspected of killing, her body was covered by blankets. A police crime lab said a palm print found on Mason's window matched that of the suspect.
Investigators have said they have no idea what motivated the killings, which began with the August 29, 1997 slaying of a 21-year-old college student in Kentucky who was attacked while walking with his girlfriend along railroad tracks.
The rest of the killings have come since September. The most recent were those of a 79-year-old man and his 51-year-old daughter, found dead June 15 in Gorham, Illinois.
Correspondents Charles Zewe and Jennifer Auther contributed to this report
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