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Maturino Resendiz convicted of murder in railway killer case
HOUSTON -- A Mexican drifter who confessed to killing nine people as he traveled the United States by rail was convicted Thursday of capital murder by a jury in Houston.
The 12-member jury, which rejected Angel Maturino Resendiz's insanity plea, must next decide if the so-called "railway killer" must be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison for killing Houston physician Claudia Benton in December 1998.
The jury deliberated for 10 hours over two days before concluding that Maturino Resendiz was aware he was committing a crime when he broke into Benton's Houston-area home, bludgeoned and stabbed her to death and raped her.
Confession at beginning of trial
Maturino Resendiz, 40, confessed to the killings on May 8, at the start of the murder trial, but his lawyers said he was insane when he went on a two-year killing spree across Texas, Kentucky and Illinois.
He was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list and was the subject of an international manhunt when he surrendered to the Texas Rangers -- an elite division of the state police -- in July 13.
Tom Vinger, of the Texas Rangers, told CNN that Maturino Resendiz is linked to the murders of five other women and three men.
"The defendant ... was totally out of touch with reality," defense attorney Allen Tanner said in closing arguments on Wednesday.
In the early stages of the trial, Tanner said: "The defendant, in his mind, thinks of people as evil who deserve to die. There is something seriously wrong up here," he said, pointing to his head.
Prosecutors argued that Maturino Resendiz was a "cold-blooded killer" who was feigning insanity in hopes of escaping the death penalty.
"The defendant does suffer from one delusion. The delusion he has is that he will be able to convince one of you he's insane," prosecutor Lyn McClellan said.
Defense: Killer thought he was avenger
In testimony last week, Bruce Cohen, a psychiatrist hired by the defense, said Maturino Resendiz was a paranoid schizophrenic who believed he was an avenging angel directed by God to kill evil people. He hated homosexuals and abortionists and may have thought the victims had links to those groups, Cohen said.
But psychiatrists called by the prosecution said Maturino Resendiz was only mentally disturbed, not insane. They said he knew he was breaking the law when he committed the murders.
"He was not motivated by the will of God. He was motivated by anger, by power, by the desire for sex, by the desire for control and domination ... if you know it's illegal, you know it's wrong," McClellan said.
Under Texas law a person is not considered insane if he or she knew right from wrong while committing the crime.
Crossed into United States often
Maturino Resendiz, who had a long history of criminal problems, has crossed into the United States for years, crisscrossing the country by train. All the murders took place near railroad tracks, which earned the killer the name "Railway Killer."
The killings to which he confessed were brutal beatings and stabbings that took place in the victims' homes and were sometimes followed by a sexual assault on the dead or dying people.
Benton, 38, was found with her head covered with a plastic bag and her body left sprawled on the floor, a bloody butcher knife nearby.
Maturino Resendiz was linked to the killing by DNA evidence taken from the victim.
He is charged in six other killings -- three more in Texas, two in Illinois and one in Kentucky -- and has been named as the only other suspect in two other Texas killings.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Court-appointed psychiatrist says railroad killer is sane.
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