The End Of The Line

Twenty-two days after the FBI put him on its "10 Most Wanted" list, Angel Leoncio Reyes Maturino Resendez walked to the middle of the Ysleta Bridge over the Rio Grande and shook hands with Texas Ranger Andrew (Drew) Carter on the American side. Already a suspect in eight brutal murders and about to be named in a ninth, Maturino Resendez had unaccountably decided to surrender on U.S. soil, thus ending a massive manhunt for the suspect known as the "railroad killer." Ranger Carter, who scooped the FBI and everyone else by negotiating the surrender, said the suspect's relatives told him Maturino Resendez was giving up because he knew he had done wrong and needed help. But the short, quiet man showed no sign of remorse, and Carter himself suggested another motive: with a $125,000 reward on his head, Maturino Resendez faced a very real risk of being gunned down by bounty hunters.

In Houston, where Maturino Resendez was taken for questioning and incarceration at the Harris County Jail, local prosecutors thought they had a strong case. The suspect, according to FBI sources, often left fingerprints, palm prints and DNA traces at the scenes of the nine murders he is now believed to have committed, most of them near rail lines. Until last week, Maturino Resendez was formally charged with only three of those murders, the bludgeoning deaths of a 79-year-old man and his 52-year-old daughter in Gorham, Ill., on June 15 and the death of a 21-year-old University of Kentucky student in August 1997. In Texas, prosecutors had deliberately postponed charging Maturino Resendez with the other murders, fearing that Mexico might not extradite him to a jurisdiction with the death penalty. If convicted as a serial killer in Texas, Maturino Resendez is likely to receive death by lethal injection.

After the suspect walked into custody, authorities in Cass County, Texas, quickly charged him with murder in the October 1998 death of Leafie Mason, an 87-year-old woman who was beaten to death in her bed in the town of Hughes Springs. Like the other victims, Mason lived near railroad tracks--and like the others, she was beaten savagely, as if her killer had been in a terrible rage. "It was a matter of over-kill," said Hughes Springs Police Chief Randy Kennedy.

That rage will figure in Maturino Resendez 's defense if, as seems likely, he pleads insanity. (His lawyer, Allen Tanner, said last week he wasn't sure his client had committed any of the murders.) Like many serial killers, the suspect is clearly intelligent. FBI officials, who used a computerized behavioral profile to make the first link between two Texas murders and the Kentucky case, say he wrote many angry letters while he was serving time for various criminal offenses in the past. "He's an injustice collector," FBI profiler Alan Brantley told NEWSWEEK. Cops who helped interrogate Maturino Resendez also saw his intelligence. "I would characterize him as being politically astute," said Detective Ken Macha, adding that Maturino Resendez had apparently been involved with the U.S. Libertarian Party in the 1980s. Macha also said Maturino Resendez at times seemed to imply a reason for his actions, but when pressed for details, "he would just start rambling."

Last week the suspect's stepbrother complained that U.S. authorities had lied to the family about the possibility of the death penalty, implying that he and his sister would not have urged Maturino Resendez to surrender if they had known that he could die. Ranger Carter denied that claim, while other officials pointed out a strange irony. Maturino Resendez 's sister and brother could get the $125,000 reward--enough to buy him a pretty good legal defense.


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