Eight days before Christmas in 1998, Resendiz sneaked into the
upscale home of Dr. Claudia Benton in the Houston enclave of West
University Place, just down the street from a railroad track.
Resendiz attacked the sleeping woman, raping her,
stabbing her 39 times with a butcher knife, and then beating her to
death with a 2 foot tall bronze statue. Resendiz took the victim's
cash and fled the scene in the victim's jeep.
This murder is among eight in Texas linked to
Resendiz, who became known as the "Railroad Killer." Two were tied
to him in Illinois and two in Florida, and one each in Kentucky,
California and Georgia.
Resendiz v. State, 112 S.W.3d 541 (Tex.Crim.App. 2003) (Direct
"I want to ask if it is in your heart to forgive me. You don't have
to. I know I allowed the devil to rule my life. I just ask you to
forgive me and ask the Lord to forgive me for allowing the devil to
deceive me. I thank God for having patience with me. I don't deserve
to cause you pain. You did not deserve this. I deserve what I am
getting." Before drawing his final breath, the killer, who claimed
to be Jewish, prayed in Hebrew and Spanish.
Texas Department of Corrections
Inmate: Resendiz, Angel Maturino
Date of Birth: 8/1/60
Date Received: 5/24/00
Education: 7 years
Date of Offense: 12/17/98
County of Conviction: Harris
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Brown
Height: 5 ft 06 in
Prior Record: Florida Department of Corrections
#73584 on a 20 year sentence for Burglary, vehicle theft, and
aggravated assault (on an hispanic male with a knife), paroled
8/27/1985; FCI #35285-079 on 18 month sentence for Immigration
Illegal Re-entry and False Representation to be a Citizen,
discharged to detainer in 1987; FCI on 30 month sentence for False
Statement to USINS and Use of Alias with Intent to Induce a Passport,
discharged to detainer in 1991 to New Mexico State Prison; New
Mexico State Prison #41648 on 18 month sentence for Residential
Burglary, paroled 4/3/1993
Texas Attorney General
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Resendiz Scheduled For Execution
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
offers the following information about Angel Maturino Resendiz, who
is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 27, 2006.
On May 24, 2000, Angel Maturino Resendiz was
sentenced to die for the capital murder of Dr. Claudia Benton. A
summary of the evidence presented at trial and during postconviction
FACTS OF THE CRIME
On Dec.17, 1998, Angel Resendiz broke into Dr.
Benton’s West University Place home and stabbed and beat her to
death. Resendiz also attempted to sexually assault Dr. Benton.
Resendiz took the victim’s money and left the
home in the victim’s vehicle. Resendiz is believed to have committed
a series of murders throughout Texas and other states.
May 2000 — A jury found Angel Resendiz guilty of
capital murder, and he was sentenced to death.
May 21, 2003 – The Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence.
Dec. 9 , 2003 – Resendiz filed a petition for
writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.
May 3, 2004 – The U.S. Supreme Court denied
Resendiz’s petition for writ of certiorari.
May 4, 2004 – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
denied Resendiz’s application for state habeas corpus relief.
May 3, 2005 – Resendiz filed an application for
federal habeas relief in U.S. District Court.
Sept. 7 ,2005 – The U.S. District Court denied
relief and entered final judgment.
Nov. 15, 2005 – Resendiz filed a motion to reopen
the time to file notice of appeal, or in the alternative, a request
to extend the time to file notice of appeal.
June 7, 2006 – The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals denied Resendiz's appeal.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
During the punishment phase of his trial, the
jury heard evidence of numerous other murders committed by Resendiz.
Holly Dunn testified that in August of 1997, Resendiz approached her
and Christopher Maier near some railroad tracks in Lexington,
Kentucky. Resendiz robbed Dunn and Maier. He then bound Maier’s
hands and feet and gagged him. Resendiz picked up a large object and
beat Maier in the head with it, crushing his skull.
After murdering Maier, Resendiz sexually
assaulted Dunn. He then hit her in the head with a large object and
left the scene. Dunn survived, but suffered multiple facial
fractures and the trauma of the sexual assault.
In October of 1998, Resendiz broke into the home
of 87-year-old Leafie Mason in Hughes Springs, Texas. Resendiz
killed Mason by hitting her in the head with an iron. In May of
1999, Resendiz traveled to Weimar, Texas, and beat Skip and Karen
Sirnic to death with a sledge hammer while they slept in their home.
He also sexually assaulted Karen Sirnic.
In June of 1999, Resendiz broke into Noemi
Dominguez’s home, sexually assaulted her, and killed her with a
pickax. Resendiz stole Dominguez’s car and traveled to Schulenberg,
Texas, where he killed 73-year-old Josephine Konvicka with the same
pickax used on Dominguez. Resendiz left the pickax embedded in
Also in June of 1999, Resendiz unlawfully entered
80-year-old George Morber’s home in Gorham, Illinois. Morber’s
daughter, Carolyn Frederick, was with Morber when Resendiz broke in.
Resendiz tied Morber to a chair and shot him in the back of the head
with a shotgun.
Resendiz then sexually assaulted Frederick and
struck her in the head with the shotgun with such force that the
shotgun broke into two pieces. Neither Morber nor Frederick survived.
'Railroad killer' offers apology at execution
Maturino Resendiz asks for forgiveness: 'I deserve what I am getting'
By Alan Turner - Houston Chronicle
June 27, 2006
HUNTSVILLE - Angel Maturino Resendiz, the serial
killer who claimed he was half-man, half-angel and could not be
killed, was executed here Tuesday for the December 1998 murder of
West University Place physician Claudia Benton.
Maturino Resendiz, 46, who killed as many as 14
people as he criss-crossed the nation by rail and in the process
came to be known as the "railroad killer," was the 13th person to be
executed in Texas this year.
As execution witnesses — members of his family
and those of four of his victims — filled the tiny chambers set
aside for them, the killer nodded toward them and apologized for his
crimes. "I want to ask if it is in your heart to forgive me,"
Maturino Resendiz said in a quiet voice. "You don't have to. I know
I allowed the devil to rule my life. I just ask you to forgive me
and ask the Lord to forgive me for allowing the devil to deceive me.
"I thank God for having patience with me. I don't deserve to cause
you pain. You did not deserve this. I deserve what I am getting."
Before drawing his final breath, the killer, who
claimed to be Jewish, prayed in Hebrew and Spanish.
George Benton, husband of the doctor who was
repeatedly stabbed and bludgeoned in the family's home, lashed out
at the killer, the Mexican government, which had supported his
appeals, and opponents of the death penalty.
Maturino Resendiz, he charged in a voice
trembling with emotion, "looked like a man ... and walked like a man.
But what lived within that skin was not a human being."
Benton said that every Mexican citizen should "feel
denigrated" by their government's effort to save the killer's life,
and accused death penalty opponents of failing to comprehend the
nature of evil. They could not, he said, understand the pain of
telling one's children their mother had been murdered.
Claudia Benton was compassionate, her husband
said, and would have aided Maturino Resendiz with food, money or
advice had he simply knocked on her door and asked.
The Mexican government, which opposes capital
punishment, was "especially cynical" in urging that Maturino
Resendiz be imprisoned for life rather than be executed. The killer,
Benton said, was a "diseased human."
'Forgive me, Lord'
As witnesses to the execution filed into the
cramped viewing rooms separated from the death chamber by Plexiglas
and bars, Maturino Resendiz chanted softly, "Forgive me, Lord."
The lethal drugs were administered at 7:58 p.m.
Maturino Resendiz was declared dead seven minutes later.
Maturino Resendiz's execution was delayed 58
minutes as the U.S. Supreme Court deliberated over a number of
issues surrounding his case, including the humaneness of lethal
injection and the killer's competency to be executed.
Last week, state District Judge William Harmon
ruled that Maturino Resendiz was competent to be executed because he
knew when and why he would be killed.
In addition to Benton, other victims' relatives
present to witness the execution included Josephine Konvicka's son,
Karen Sirnic's brother and an Illinois man who was George Morber's
grandson and Carolyn Frederick's son.
Konvicka, 73, was killed with a pickax at her
Schulenburg home; Weimar resident Sirnic and her minister husband,
Norman, were killed with a sledgehammer; Morber was fatally shot and
Frederick was beaten to death with the firearm. Maturino Resendiz's
mother, brother and sister also witnessed his death.
As the hour of the planned execution approached,
Maturino Resendiz, who claimed he was an avenging angel and that he
could not be killed, visited with his 7-year-old daughter and his
mother. Then he was taken from death row in Livingston to a holding
cell here. Prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said he appeared calm.
The killer declined a last meal.
Unfair treatment claimed
Maturino Resendiz's lawyer Jack Zimmermann said
Tuesday that the killer's case never received effective federal
In late 2005, Leslie Ribnik, Maturino Resendiz's
court-appointed attorney, failed to appeal a federal judge's ruling
denying a writ of habeas corpus. At that juncture, the Mexican
government, which opposes capital punishment, hired Zimmermann to
handle the case.
Zimmermann said his client did not receive fair
treatment in the state's criminal justice system. "This is a deadly
serious thing," Zimmermann said. "When we say the rule of law
doesn't apply because you are not a U.S. citizen, when we say it
doesn't apply because you've admitted killing people, then the rule
of law doesn't apply to all of us."
Zimmermann also contended that his client was
schizophrenic and not competent to be executed. "From the beginning,"
Zimmermann said of last week's competency hearing, "I said that if
Maturino Resendiz was sane, then certainly in my judgment, he
qualified for the death penalty. But if he's not, then we should
enforce the law and not bow to public pressure. I don't think we got
the right results."
During the hearing, experts testified that
Maturino Resendiz did not believe the state could kill him.
After the lethal drugs were administered, he said,
he would enter suspended animation for three days before appearing
in a new body in the Middle East to battle Israel's enemies.
Insanity claim challenged
Mayor Bill White's crime victims advocate Andy
Kahan called Maturino Resendiz a "cold-blooded, diabolical, brutal
serial killer who richly deserves his ultimate punishment."
Kahan challenged assertions that Maturino
Resendiz was insane, noting that the killer shrewdly attempted to
profit from his notoriety. "Within weeks of being taken into custody,"
Kahan said, "he began trying to use his ill-gotten fame." At one
point, Kahan said, Maturino Resendiz declined to sell his autographs
for less than $50.
Kahan argued that the killer knew the difference
between right and wrong, and had the mental acuity to devise dozens
of aliases and elude law enforcement officers for months.
David Atwood, director of Texas Coalition to
Abolish the death penalty, countered that Maturino Resendiz is a "severely
mentally disturbed person" who should be locked up for the rest of
his life. "But," Atwood said in a written statement, "executing
Resendiz accomplishes nothing for the citizens of this state."
Counting Maturino Resendiz, Atwood wrote, Texas
has executed 368 killers since 1982, when executions here were
resumed. "The only thing they have done," he said, "is help
politicians get elected and satisfy the cries for vengeance from
some of its citizens."
Railroad killer is put to death for a 1998
By Michael Graczyk -
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
AP - Wed, Jun. 28, 2006
HUNTSVILLE -- Train-hopping serial killer Angel
Maturino Resendiz, linked to at least 15 indiscriminate slayings
near railroad tracks across the country, said he deserved what he
was getting and asked for forgiveness before he was executed Tuesday
Resendiz, 46, mumbled a prayer, saying, "Lord,
forgive me. Lord, forgive me" as he waited for the execution to
proceed. His feet nervously moved under a white sheet partially
He acknowledged relatives watching through a
nearby window and then turned and looked toward the victims'
relatives in another room. "I want to ask if it is in your heart to
forgive me," he said in English, looking toward the relatives of
some of his victims. "You don't have to. I know I allowed the devil
to rule my life. I just ask you to forgive me and ask the Lord to
forgive me for allowing the devil to deceive me. "I thank God for
having patience for me. You did not deserve this. I deserve what I
am getting." He then said a prayer in Spanish. He was pronounced
dead at 8:05 p.m.
The Mexican drifter known as the "railroad killer"
was executed for killing Houston physician Claudia Benton in late
1998. But Resendiz's killings began with a murder in San Antonio in
1986 and ended in June 1999 with a double slaying in Illinois.
For a while, he was on the FBI's Most Wanted list
as authorities searched for a killer who slipped across the U.S.
border and roamed the country by freight train.
Benton's death is among eight in Texas linked to
Resendiz. Two were tied to him in Illinois and two in Florida, and
one each in Kentucky, California and Georgia.
Benton, 39, was stabbed with a kitchen knife, hit
19 times with a 2-foot-tall bronze statue and raped in her home
eight days before Christmas in 1998 in the Houston enclave of West
University Place, just down the street from a railroad track.
Her husband, George Benton, returned to the state
to witness Resendiz's death. Resendiz, who had appeared in court
last week with a long beard and long hair, was clean-shaven Tuesday
The start of the execution was delayed almost two
hours while the U.S. Supreme Court considered several last-day
appeals. The court rejected the appeals at 7:25 p.m.
Resendiz's lead appeals attorney, Jack Zimmermann,
had argued that Resendiz, who described himself as half-man and half-angel,
told psychiatrists that he couldn't be executed because he didn't
believe he could die.
The court also rejected an appeal by the Houston-based
consul general of Mexico questioning Resendiz's competency and
challenging the constitutionality of the lethal injection process as
cruel and unusual punishment. Capital punishment is not practiced in
Texas executes "Railroad Killer" for 1998
Jun 27, 2006
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - A diminutive
Mexican serial killer who murdered victims in their homes near
railroads as he train-hopped across the United States, was executed
by lethal injection in a Texas prison on Tuesday for the 1998
slaying of a Houston medical researcher.
Dubbed the 'Railroad Killer," Angel Maturino
Resendiz, 45, was condemned for the rape and murder of Dr. Claudia
Benton, 39, in her suburban Houston home on December 17, 1998.
Police said Resendiz sneaked into Benton's home
after midnight and attacked the sleeping woman, raping her, stabbing
her and then beating her to death with a statue.
The crime scene, described as horrific by
experienced homicide detectives, was said to be emblematic of
Resendiz's attacks, which claimed at least 13 victims, including
three others in Texas between 1997 and 1999.
At his 2000 trial for Benton's murder, Resendiz
pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He claimed he was half-human
and half-angel and was waging a war against evil.
In the weeks leading up to his execution,
Resendiz's lawyers argued in courts he should not be put to death
because he is insane and believed he would be resurrected after his
execution to continue his campaign against evil.
Resendiz's execution was delayed on Tuesday night
until the U.S. Supreme Court rejected last-minute appeals.
While strapped to a gurney in the death chamber,
Resendiz sought forgiveness. "I want to ask if it is in your heart
to forgive me," he said. "You don't have to. I know I allowed the
devil to rule my life. I just ask you to forgive me and ask the Lord
to forgive me for allowing the devil to deceive me."
Resendiz was the 13th person executed in Texas
this year and the 368th put to death since the state resumed capital
punishment in 1982, six years after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a
national death penalty ban, a total that leads the nation. Resendiz
made no final meal request. Texas has 12 more executions scheduled
Execution draws media, protesters to ‘Walls’
By Matt Peterson - Huntsville Item
June 28, 2006
Opponents of the death penalty came to the
Huntsville “Walls” Unit on Tuesday evening to protest the execution
of Angel Maturino Resendiz, but they were practically outnumbered by
the amount of media from around the state covering the controversial
Gregory Compean, owner of Compean Funeral Home in
Houston, was handling Resendiz’s funeral services. Compean has done
so for other inmates, but said the coverage of this execution has
brought more media than he had seen before. “This is probably a
little heavier than the last time, because of the notoriety of Mr.
Resendiz,” he said.
News vans from network TV stations in Houston, as
well as KBTX Channel 3 from College Station, WOAI Channel 4 from San
Antonio and KEYE Channel 43 and KTBC Channel 7 in Austin were parked
near the “Walls” Unit and 15 news cameras were ready to capture
footage of the families walking to and from the unit.
Dennis Longmire, a Huntsville resident who
regularly protests capital punishment outside of the “Walls” Unit
said he has seen this kind of a response before, but only in the
most high-profile cases. “There have been a couple, like Karla Faye
Tucker and Gary Graham and those highly publicized media events,”
Longmire said. “What’s unique about this is that there are five or
six broadcast media trucks and only about 30 people on the corner.
Usually there would be a lot more of a crowd.”
Compean also noticed there were fewer people
protesting than might be expected for such a high-profile case.
“This is the fourth one I have been at, and it seems rather calm
compared to the last couple I was at,” he said. “There doesn’t seem
to be as many people, but I guess the heat has something to do with
Whether there are five people, 30 people or 100
people protesting, those who are there are hoping their voices will
make a difference in the current system.
Patrick Williams, who drove from College Station
to protest the execution, said it is important to recognize the
value of all lives. “It’s really about promoting the culture of life,”
Serial killer Angel Maturino Resendiz, also
called the Railway Killer, was an illegal immigrant from Mexico who
wandered the country on trains to commit his crimes and facilitate
He evaded capture for a considerable time, having
no fixed addresses, and making undocumented international transit
between Mexico, the United States, and Canada until he was captured.
On March 23, 1997 in Ocala, Florida, Jesse Howell,
19, was bludgeoned to death with an air hose coupling and left
beside some railroad tracks. His fiance,16-year-old Wendy VonHuben
was raped, strangled, suffocated and buried in a shallow grave
approximately 30 miles away in We Hope, Florida.
Christopher Maier of Lexington, Kentucky was
bludgeoned to death on August 29, 1997 by Resendiz. Resendiz also
raped and severely beat Christopher's girlfriend, who nearly died as
a result. Christopher was 21 years old. He was a University of
Kentucky student who was walking along nearby railroad tracks with
his girlfriend when the two were attacked by Resendiz.
On October 4, 1998, in Hughes Spring, Texas,
Leafie Mason, 81, was hammered to death with a fire iron by Resendiz,
who entered her home through a window. Her house was right in front
of the railroad tracks.
Claudia Benton, 39 was a doctor in Houston who
worked with children. On December 17, 1998, Claudia was raped,
stabbed, and bludgeoned repeatedly after she entered her home, which
was near the train tracks. Police found her Jeep Cherokee in San
Antonio and found Resendiz's fingerprints on the steering column.
Norman J. Sirnic, 46, and Karen Sirnic, 47, were
bludgeoned to death on May 2, 1999, by a sledgehammer. The murders
occurred in a parsonage of the United Church of Christ in Weimar,
Texas where Norman was the pastor.
The building was located adjacent to a railroad.
The Sirnics' red Mazda was also found in San Antonio three weeks
later, and fingerprints linked their case with the Claudia Benton
Noemi Dominguez, a 26-year-old schoolteacher in
Houston, was bludgeoned to death in her apartment near some railroad
tracks on June 4, 1999. Seven days later, her white Honda Civic was
discovered by state troopers on the International Bridge in Del Rio,
Resendiz's next known victim was Josephine
Konvicka, 73 years old. On June 4, 1999, Josephine was killed by the
blow of a pointed garden tool on the head while she lay sleeping in
Her farmhouse was not far from Weimar. Resendiz
attempted to steal her car but was unable to take it since he could
not find the car keys.
On June 15, 1999, Resendiz showed up far from
Texas, in Gorham, Illinois. Resendiz shot George Morber, Sr., 80, in
the head with a shotgun and then clubbed Carolyn Frederick, 52, to
Their house was located only 100 yards away from
a railroad line. Later, a witness saw a man matching Resendiz's
description driving Carolyn Frederick's red pickup truck 60 miles
south of the murder scene, in Cairo, Illinois.
In an effort to find the killer, police tracked
down Resendiz's sister, Manuela. Manuela feared that her brother
might kill someone else or be killed by the FBI, so she agreed to
A Texas Ranger named Drew Carter, accompanied by
Manuela and a spiritual advisor met with Resendiz on a bridge
connecting El Paso, Texas, with Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Resendiz
surrendered to him. The state of Texas tried Resendiz for the murder
of Dr. Claudia Benton.
He was found guilty and was sentenced to death by
lethal injection. There could be many additional murders that
Resendiz committed that were never tied to him.
Ángel Reséndiz, TX - June 27
Do Not Execute Angel Resendiz!
Ángel Maturino Reséndiz is scheduled to be
executed on June 27 for the murder of Claudia Benton. Reséndiz
allegedly was waiting in Benton’s Harris County home on the evening
of December 17, 1998.
When Benton entered the house, Reséndiz is
alleged to have raped, stabbed, and bludgeoned her to death.
Though Reséndiz has admitted to a series of more
than 10 murders, he is no less entitled to due process than a
defendant who claims to be entirely innocent.
As Reséndiz is a Mexican citizen, his native
country’s government hired a lawyer for him after his first lawyer
failed to file an appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
before the deadline. Due to the case’s unusual circumstances, the
Court agreed to accept his appeal late, and has not yet returned an
In spite of the undecided status of Reséndiz’s
appeal, an execution date has already been set for him and a death
warrant has been signed.
In his appeal before the 5th Circuit Court of
Appeals, Reséndiz argued that he is insane and ineligible for
execution. Whether or not the Court will agree has yet to be seen.
Still, it is in poor taste and approaching a
violation of Reséndiz’s due process rights for the state to be so
presumptuous as to prepare for Reséndiz’s execution while an
important appeal remains pending.
Please write to Gov. Rick Perry on behalf of
Son of Railroad Killer's victim will be at
By Barry Halvorson -
The Victoria Advocate
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
When it comes time for the state of Texas to
execute convicted "Railroad Killer" Angel Maturino Resendiz today,
the son of one of his victims, Josephine Konvicka, plans to be there
to watch and he hopes it will finally bring closure for his family.
"I'm both relived and disappointed the day has finally come," Thomas
Konvicka said Monday afternoon. "It has taken way too long for this
day to arrive based on the considerable pain that he inflicted on
the victims and their families. But I welcome seeing his death so
that it can bring the family some closure."
Konvicka has been selected as the one member of
his family who will be allowed to view the execution. His brother
and one sister will be in a waiting area at the prison during the
execution. The family also includes two sisters. "I don't know who
else will be attending the execution," Konvicka said. "Other than
the trial, we haven't stayed in touch with the families of the other
Konvicka, who is a certified peace officer, works
in the Houston Police Department's latent fingerprints lab. "As a
peace officer, I fully know about all the different emotions that a
person can go through viewing an execution," he said. "But being a
realist, I don't think they will effect me personally because that's
not my personality. I don't forgive him for what he did to my family
and I want to see him dead."
Konvicka admitted to having already spent much of
his emotions in the years since his mother's death. 'The murder was
devastating to the family in a way that's hard to explain," he said.
"Personally, I've been living in a suspended state. I told my wife
that I've missed out on such things as our kids growing up for the
past few years. Until I know justice is done, and there is some
finality, things just aren't registering with me."
The Mexican government announced on Friday that
it will be fighting the execution based on Resendiz, 46, being
mentally unfit, according to an Associated Press report.
That announcement came following a decision by a
Texas judge who ruled Resendiz mentally competent to be executed. "I'm
trying to have faith in the justice system but do have a concern
that international politics is going to enter into any decision,"
Konvicka said. "But last week he was judged competent. The courts
had already ruled at the time of his trial that he was sane and knew
what he was doing. If you follow the trail of his crimes, they were
well planned out, he stole items from the homes, and he knew how to
evade the police. It paints a clear picture of someone who was aware
of what he was doing. He was very competent when he was committing
Josephine Konvicka, 73, was killed in her home
just outside Weimar on June 4, 1999, according to law enforcement
records. Her death came just barely a month after the deaths of the
Rev. Norman J. "Skip" Sirnic, 46, and his wife Karen, 47, in the
parsonage of the United Church of Christ in Weimar on May 2, 1999.
According to an Associated Press story, Resendiz
was connected to eight killings in Texas, two each in Illinois and
Florida, and one each in Kentucky, California and Georgia between
1986 and 1999, when he turned himself in to authorities. He has
claimed to have committed even more killings.
Resendiz is scheduled to be executed for the
death of Houston-area physician Claudia Benton on Dec. 17, 1998.
Resendiz was called the "Railroad Killer" because many of his
attacks took place near railroad tracks and he was known to travel
by hopping trains.
SURVIVOR OF KENTUCKY ATTACK: 'I GUESS IT WILL BE
Woman tries 'to live past the trauma'
By Jessie Halladay -
Louisville Courier Journal
June 28, 2006
The only surviving victim of "Railroad Killer"
Angel Maturino Resendiz said his execution last night won't heal the
trauma of her 1997 attack, but "I guess it will be a relief when
he's not in the world anymore."
Holly Dunn Pendleton was a University of Kentucky
student in August 1997 when Resendiz brutally attacked her and
killed her boyfriend. She declined to be interviewed but issued a
statement this week to The Courier-Journal. "I'll live with the
emotional trauma whether he's in the world or not," she wrote,
adding that she would continue to speak out against sexual assault
and domestic violence. "The scars will never completely go away but
I have learned to live past the trauma, and I have focused my energy
toward helping others."
Resendiz was executed in Texas last night for the
murder of Dr. Claudia Benton, 39, of Houston in 1998. That slaying
was part of a cross-country murder spree between 1997 and 1999 that
authorities say left at least 15 people dead. Many of the victims
were stalked near railroad tracks, as Resendiz traveled from place
to place in freight cars.
Dunn Pendleton, who now lives in Indiana, said
she planned to spend yesterday surrounded by the friends and family
who have supported her over the years, rather than travel to Texas
for the execution. The 1997 assault on Dunn Pendleton and fellow UK
student Chris Maier was Resendiz' first known attack.
He crushed Maier's skull with a 52-pound rock,
then raped Dunn Pendleton and beat her head with a heavy cudgel.
Dunn Pendleton was the prosecution's star witness in the sentencing
phase of his trial in Texas in 2000.
Last week, she was honored in Washington with a
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service
because of her work as an advocate for victims of sexual assault and
because she developed Holly's House, a center for victims of violent
crimes in Evansville, Ind.
Getting the award, she wrote, has helped to
temper the memories that have arisen over news of Resendiz'
execution, and has helped her remain focused on the positive.
In Texas, Benton's husband, George, witnessed
Resendiz's execution "to make the statement that people have to
understand what evil really is." "What was executed today may have
looked like a man, walked and talked like a man, but what was
contained inside that skin was not a human being," he said. "This is
not human behavior, but something I can only say is evil contained
in human form, a creature without a soul, no conscience, no sense of
remorse, no regard for the sanctity of human life."
His wife was stabbed with a kitchen knife,
bludgeoned with a 2-foot bronze statue and raped in her home, just
down the street from a railroad track. "It's beyond my comprehension.
I can't really consider the depths of that human behavior," Benton
had previously said.
Railroad Killer Still Pains Ill. Town
By Jim Suhr - Houston Chronicle
Associated Press - June 27, 2006
GORHAM, Ill. — Freight trains clack dozens of
times a day through this sleepy southern Illinois village, bringing
life to the century-old town. But locals still wince when they think
of the day Angel Maturino Resendiz brought death.
Scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday, the
drifter known as the "Railroad Killer" needed only a few hours in
town to leave his bloody mark.
He blasted George Morber in the head with the
retiree's shotgun before bashing Morber's daughter to death with the
butt of the weapon when she came by to clean her father's home.
Resendiz helped himself to Morber's food and pickup truck, which was
later found 70 miles away.
The Mexican national preyed on those he happened
upon while riding the rails. His surrender a month after the Gorham
killings ended a spree that authorities say left at least 15 dead in
Texas, Illinois, Florida, Kentucky, California and Georgia.
Resendiz has confessed in the Gorham slayings but
never charged. He is scheduled for execution Tuesday in Texas for
the 1998 rape and slaying of a doctor. Good riddance, many residents
say. "He just bounced in and committed a wicked crime. Just kill him,"
says Sharon Sargent, 48. "This town has always been known for its
frequent trains. But who knows what's going to come through now?
It's happened once. Who's to say it's not going to happen again?"
Before Resendiz dropped in on this bucolic place
tucked among rolling hills near the Mississippi River, locals say,
killings were the stuff of big cities like St. Louis, about 90 miles
to the northwest. George Morber enjoyed the good life as a retired
prison worker and Army veteran.
The 80-year-old's trailer skirted a three-acre,
fish-filled pond he enjoyed trolling for catfish and bluegill. His
51-year-old daughter, Carolyn Frederick, lived on the water's other
Although he lived fewer than 100 yards from the
tracks, Morber didn't mind the incessant thunder of passing trains
or the uninvited guests the rails brought his way _ hungry, train-hopping
hobos who often traipsed across his land. Morber fed them and they
moved on. Then came June 15, 1999.
Resendiz bedded down among trees behind Morber's
home, watched Morber drive off, and climbed through a window,
according to Frederick's widower, Don Frederick. But Morber
surprised the intruder when he returned just moments later with the
The drifter used telephone cord to bind Morber in
a recliner, then blasted him once in the head with a shotgun. When
Morber's daughter stopped by, Resendiz bludgeoned her so forcefully
the shotgun broke in half.
Resendiz snacked on Morber's food, took down
family photographs, perused the morning paper and lounged about, Don
Frederick says. The drifter left his fingerprints everywhere before
driving off in Morber's truck.
"He was in there four a half, five hours. He took
his time," Frederick said. He discovered the carnage after one of
his daughters said she couldn't reach Morber.
The death toll could have been greater _ Morber's
wife wasn't around that day because she had been admitted to a
hospital just a day earlier due to chronic heart trouble.
In the hospital, Frederick says, the television
set in Morber's wife's room was removed to shield her from details
about her husband's death.
Locals soon locked their doors and kept children
within sight _ things they had never felt compelled to do before.
Sargent says her aunt stopped walking the tracks for exercise "because
nobody trusted anyone." Gorham residents turned less charitable to
transients, resident Willa Homan says. "After this hobo turned out
to be the Railroad Killer, that changed things," Homan said. "You've
got people locking their doors more," says Bud Stone, a member of
the village board who has served as mayor. "You don't want this
happening again, I can tell you that."
Now occupying the trailer where Morber and his
daughter met their demise, Charles Hester says he doesn't feel
overly worried about living near the tracks. "It wasn't the train
that did this; the train can't help it that people use it for a free
ride," he says.
Angel Maturino Resendiz
The Crime Library
Terror Near the Tracks For nearly two years, a killer literally
followed wheatfield America’s railroad tracks to slay unsuspecting
victims before disappearing back into the pre-lit dawn.
His modus operandi was always the same – he
struck near the rail lines he illegally rode, then stowed away on
the next freight train to come his way. Always ahead of the law.
Angel Maturino Resendez, 39 years old, was
apprehended early this month (July, 1999) after eluding state police
for two years and slipping through a two-month FBI net until, after
nine alleged murders, he was finally traced and captured by a
determined Texas Ranger.
Known, for apparent reasons, as "The Railroad
Killer," Angel Resendez (who was known throughout much of the
manhunt by the alias Rafael Ramirez) has been called "a man with a
grudge," "confused," hostile" and "angry" by the police, the news
media and psychiatrists.
He is an illegal immigrant from Mexico who
crossed the international border at will. Most of his crimes took
place in central Texas, but he is suspected of having killed as far
north as Kentucky and Illinois.
While he fits the mold of serial killers such as
David Berkowitz and the Boston Strangler, Resendez killed more
meditatively for something he needed: alcohol, drugs, a place to
hide out, though usually money. He raped, but "sex seemed almost
secondary," according to former FBI profiler John Douglas.
Douglas calls Resendez "just a bungling crook …very
disorganized," but one whose own disorganization worked well for him.
Because his trail was haphazard, because he himself didn’t know
where he was heading next, this directionless, drifting form of
operation kept Resendez inadvertently ever-the-more elusive.
FBI special agent Don K. Clark says that the
manhunt was complicated by the fact that Resendez had "no permanent
address" while continuing to travel unchecked "throughout the United
States, Mexico and Canada."
While his travels might best be described as
spontaneous, and his slayings as combustive, that is not to say that
the Railroad Killer didn’t have his own particular signature. He
pretty much followed a routine. For one, the murders all occurred
"in close proximity to train track locations," to quote Clark.
Late last month, in the heat of the intensive
manhunt for the murderer, John Douglas described what appeared to be
the killer’s simple but deadly agenda:
"When he hitches a ride on the freight train, he
doesn’t necessarily know where the train is going. But when he gets
off, having background as a burglar, he’s able to scope out the area,
do a little surveillance, make sure he breaks into the right house
where there won’t be anyone to give him a run for his money. He can
enter a home complete with cutting glass and reaching in and undoing
"He’ll look through the windows and see who’s
occupying it. The guy’s only 5 foot-7, very small. In fact…the early
weapons were primarily blunt-force trauma weapons, weapons of
opportunity found at the scenes. He has to case them out, make sure
he can put himself in a win-win situation."
Where he came from, what spurred his crime spree,
what kind of man was Resendez –these will be examined in the
succeeding chapters. For now, let’s pause to examine his list of
Following is a list of the nine serial murders
attributed to Resendez:
VICTIM 1: August 29, 1997/Lexington. KY:
Christopher Maier, 21, a University of Kentucky student, and his
girlfriend are attacked while walking along the tracks near the
college. Maier is bludgeoned to death and she is raped and beaten,
almost to the point of death. She miraculously survives.
VICTIM 2: October 4, 1998/Hughes Spring, TX: On
this cool Fall evening, 87-year-old Leafie Mason is hammered to
death by a tire iron by someone who enters her home through a window.
Her front door faces the Kansas City-Southern Rail Line tracks only
50 yards away.
VICTIM3: December 17, 1998/Houston, TX: An
invader breaks into the home of Dr. Claudia Benton, 39, of the
Baylor College of Medicine, when she arrives home, the intruder
rapes, stabs and bludgeons her repeatedly with a blunt instrument.
Her home is near the rail lines that run through suburban West
University Place. When the police recover her stolen Jeep Cherokee
in San Antonio. TX, they find fingerprints on the steering column
that match those of drifter Resendez, a known illegal alien. Three
weeks later, a county judge signs a warrant for Resendez’ arrest for
burglary – but, strangely enough, not for murder. There is not
enough evidence, says he!
VICTIMS 4 & 5: May 2, 1999 Weimar, TX: Late at
night, the Reverend Norman J. "Skip" Sirnic, 46, and wife Karen, 47,
are struck to death by a sledgehammer in the parsonage of the United
Church of Christ -- located adjacent to the town’s railroad. The
couple’s red Mazda is found in San Antonio three weeks later.
Forensic evidence matches the killing of Dr. Benton in Houston
VICTIM 6: June 4, 1999: Houston, TX:
Schoolteacher Noemi Dominguez, 26, is clubbed to death in her
apartment, located near rail tracks. Seven days later, troopers find
Dominguez’ 1993 white Honda Civic abandoned at the international
bridge at Del Rio, Texas.
VICTIM 7: June 4, 1999/Fayette County, TX:
Seventy-three-year-old Josephine Konvicka is killed in bed by a blow
of a pointed garden tool to the head. She lived in a frame farmhouse
not far from Weimar, where a month prior Rev. and Mrs. Simic were
killed, and within shadows of a rail yard. Her car has been tampered
with, but the killer is unable to find the keys.
VICTIMS 8 & 9: June 15, 1999/Gorham, IL: An
intruder breaks into a mobile home to kill its two occupants, After
shooting George Morber, Sr.,80, in the head with a shotgun, he then
clubs to death Morber’s daughter, Carolyn Frederick, 52. Their house
sits only 100 yards from the a railroad track. The next day, a
passerby spots Fredericks’ red pickup truck in Cairo, IL, sixty
miles south of Gorham, being driven by a man matching Resendez’
Most of Resendez’ victims were found covered with
a blanket; none were of a tall or burly stature, for the killer
himself is of a diminutive size and stature. But, he might well have
been a giant for the terror he struck in the hearts of otherwise-relaxed
Citizens’ emotions ran high in the towns where he
killed; in the smaller ones, especially, people who had never locked
their doors and windows at night were now bolting them. Children
were ushered off the dusky streets by nervous parents, shops closed
early, and moonlit strolls ended.
Sentiments throughout pretty much echoed the
words of Mayor Bernie Kosler of Weimar, the little Texas burgh where
the Simics and Mrs. Konvicka were slain. "The stores around here,"
he said, "have sold out of pistols."
State and city law enforcement agencies did what
little they could to find the will-o'-the-wisp maniac. Freight yard
security was steeped up and hobos by the boxcar loads were hauled
into local jails for positive identification and questioning.
Sometimes freight trains were paused -- to hell with time schedules!
-- and searched engine to caboose.
Hispanics, even those who worked in the yards,
complained to their bosses about the dirty looks they got from
townspeople and what they felt was harassment from the police.
Hangouts for transients became targets for raids;
policemen marched through homeless shelters, blood centers and soup
kitchens where men earning money as migrant workers were known to
Loiterers about town were hustled into police
stations for questioning, but quickly released when it was proven
they were not Angel Resendez.
In June of 1999, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation placed the Railroad Killer on its Top Ten Most Wanted
list. The Bureau’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP)
compared the elements of the alleged Resendez killings to come up
with matches linking the same man to all of them.
The FBI’s initial reward of $50,000 for
information leading to Resendez’ capture escalated within days to
$125,000 as affected municipalities anted up.
Wanted posters described Resendez as 5’7" tall,
weighing 140-150 pounds; black hair, brown eyes and dark complexion;
scars on right ring finger, left arm and forehead; a snake tattoo on
his left forearm and a flower tattoo on his left wrist; has been
known to employ any one of dozens of aliases, social security
numbers and birth dates (although the certified date seemed to be
August 1, 1960); has worked as a day laborer, migrant worker or auto
In the meantime, Jackson County, IL officially
charged Resendez with the murder of the Gorham killings after his
fingerprints are documented. Officials in Louisville, KY did
Angry authorities in the latter city, where
Christopher Maier became the first of the Railroad Killer’s nine
known victims, disseminated wallet-size photos of the murderer,
urging citizens to notify the police immediately if they even think
they have spotted him.
On July 1, authorities in Fayette County, TX,
identified DNA from Noemi Dominguez in Josephine Konvicka’s home,
indicating that after Resendez killed the younger woman, he drove
her car to other woman’s home for more bloodletting.
Don K. Clark, special agent in charge of the
FBI’s Houston office, coordinating the nationwide manhunt, called
Resendez "a very dangerous and violent person," explaining why the
Mexican national and border jumper was placed on the infamous Top
Ten list. "He’s demonstrated he can use almost any kind of object to
take a human life in a very violent manner and we’ve got to try to
Two hundred agents, he said, were assigned round-the-clock
assignments in locations where Resendez was known to have struck and
where he might strike next. Of course, areas of concentration
included freight yards and rail depots. "We have the train tracks,"
Agents soon received more than 1,000 phone tips
from people who claimed they had either seen the fugitive, who knew
the victims, or thought they might have something new or novel to
add to the strategy of the manhunt or psychology of the fugitive.
Most of the leads were blind, but some of them
proved solid, as was the call that came in from vacationing
acquaintances of Resendez who spotted him in Louisville.
This occurred about the same time that John
Matilda, director of the Wayside Christian Mission in that city,
advised the police that he, too, had seen the runaway.
On July 7, the FBI felt they had made a good move
in recruiting the help of Resendez’ common-law wife, Julietta Reyes,
whom they brought into Houston from her hometown of Rodeo, Mexico,
250 miles below the border. "She would like to do everything she can
to get (her husband) to turn himself in to the appropriate
authorities," reported Clark. Surprisingly, Julietta turned over to
the FBI 93 pieces of jewelry that she had been mailed to her from
her husband abroad.
She was sure they belonged to his victims. And
she was on target. Relatives of Noemi Dominguez quickly identified
thirteen of the pieces.
As well, George Benton, husband of the murdered
Claudia Benton, claimed several other pieces as her property.
A Fatal Slip-Up For all the spent efficiency,
Angel Resendez continued to elude the law at every turn. John
Douglas, who had been with the FBI for 25 years, rued the fact that,
"the manhunt for the accused killer (had) been hampered by the lack
of a coordinated computer system that would allow law enforcement
officials to compare notes instantly and determine patterns."
The lack of such a system proved to be more
injurious to the manhunt than Douglas could have predicted at the
On June 2, the Border Patrol apprehended Angel
Resendez near El Paso as he was attempting to cross the border
While he was in its custody, the United States
Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) performed a computer
search on him, checking his fingerprints and photo against a
possible fugitives list.
Because the system failed to identify him as a
wanted man, the INS deported him to Mexico. The slip-up proved to be
much more than an embarrassment – it wound up to be a crucial
After his release, Resendez immediately found his
way back into the States where, within 48 hours, he killed both
Dominguez and Konvicka near Houston, then Morber and his daughter in
Four innocent people murdered over a computer
glitch. "Our computers told us that he was nothing of lookout
material," explained C.G. Almengor, a supervisor at the border. His
words were too anti-climactic. "We really wish he had been in the
system so we could have caught him." But, the error could not be
totally blamed on modern technology.
On July 1, a month after the mistake, a Justice
Department representative admitted that the West University Place
Police Department had notified the INS about Resendez back in
December right after the death of Dr. Benton, INS Commissioner Doris
Meissner announced an internal investigation into the matter.
Suspicious Angel The manhunt for Resendez
involved more than the physical knocking on locked doors and pacing
through dusty freight yards. As with any manhunt the FBI conducts, a
lot of time is spent getting to know the type of man or woman for
whom it is searching.
This includes studying the culprit’s criminal
background, social history and psychoses. Resendez had a long record
of criminal enterprises before the series of known murders began in
1997 "He probably started killing somewhere in his late 20s,"
remarks John Douglas, who as a former FBI agent, spent many hours
pursuing other Resendezes. "He may have killed people like himself
initially – males, transients."
Continuously being sent back to Mexico by U.S.
deportation officers who found him in this country illegally, he "became
angry at the population at large. What America represents here is
this wealthy country where he keeps getting kicked out…(he) just
can’t make ends meet.
Coupled with these feelings, these inadequacies,
fueled by the fact that he’s known to take alcohol, take drugs,
lowers his inhibitions now to go out and kill."
In the FBI’s possession is a birth certificate
listing Resendez as having been born on August 1, 1960 in Izucar de
Matomoros in the state of Puebla, Mexico.
His mother, Virginia de Maturino, claims the real
spelling of his surname is Recendis, not Resendez, which he uses.
She admits that her son spent his formative years not with her, but
with another family that seemed to lack proper guidance. And
homosexuals in Puebla may have sexually abused him, she says.
Virtually an orphan, Resendez roamed the streets
as a child, without a real family role model. The FBI has identified
a sister in Albuquerque, New Mexico and other relatives both south
and north of the border. Relatives in the U.S. have migrated as far
north as the Great Lakes and as far east as Vermont.
Angel Resendez first came to the attention of the
U.S. Justice Department at age 16 when he was caught in Brownsville,
TX, trying to cross the border from Mexico in 1976. "He was deported
two months later," says the Dallas/Forth Worth Internet Service, "the
first of…numerous run-ins with U.S. authorities."
In 1988, he briefly lived in St. Louis where "he
registered with a temporary agency and worked a half-day at a
manufacturing company (and) voted in two elections under an assumed
Resendez’ criminal life in the United States, as
well as his ability to escape long-term punishment here, reads like
a bad novel.
After his first deportation in August 1976, he
returned to the U.S. a month later where INS agents located him in
Sterling Heights, MI., and yet again in October, this time in
McAllen, Texas. Then he quieted for a spell.
No one knows when he slipped back into this
country, but in September of 1979, he was sentenced to a 20-year
prison term for auto theft and assault in Miami, Florida. Luck on
his side, he was paroled within six years and released onto Mexican
But, the drifter drifted quite actively. Over the
next decade, Resendez was apprehended and tried in Texas for falsely
claiming citizenship, for which he did an 18-month prison stint
was arrested for possessing a concealed weapon in
New Orleans, receiving an 18-month sentence, but paroled after a
year (1988); earned a 30-month sentence for attempting to defraud
Social Security in St. Louis (1988);
pleaded guilty to burglary charges in New Mexico,
a crime that gained him an 18-month prison term, though again he was
paroled after a year (1992); and was apprehended in a Santa Fe rail
yard for trespassing and carrying a firearm (1995).
For the last infraction he was again deported. In
fact, after every incarceration -- and in between them -- he was
dumped across the border so many times that he resembled a
Two years after the last recorded deportation, he
materialized in Kentucky to kill Christopher Maier.
Sometime in early June, a young Texas Ranger by
the name of Drew Carter conceived the notion that perhaps Resendez’
sister, Manuela, whom Resendez is said to idolize, might be
instrumental in affecting her brother’s surrender.
He contacted Manuela, who lived in Albuquerque,
to assess the practicality of his plan. The woman, who feared that
her brother might eventually be killed by the FBI, or might kill
again in the meantime, promised Carter that she would do everything
humanly possible to help.
The FBI had traced Resendez’ whereabouts to
Mexico where he had absconded not long after the double murder in
Illinois. He was believed to be, at that point, hiding near the town
of Ciudad Juarez.
In his easy-going, unforced rapport with Manuela,
Sgt. Carter explained that he was working with the FBI and legal
prosecutors in Harris County (TX) to offer the fairest deal he could
to her brother, the Railroad Killer, under the circumstances.
If he surrendered himself, Carter told her,
Resendez would be assured of three things: 1) his personal safety
while in jail; 2) regular visiting rights so that his wife, sister
and others could visit him; and 3) a psychological evaluation. In
effect, Carter’s weeks-long relationship-building effort created
solid steps toward working a miracle -- that is, getting a serial
killer to turn himself in."
Carter, who had been a Texas Ranger less than a
year, believed in being straightforward. Says he, "Honesty’s never
hard. Sincerity is something people sense. That’s what I did. I was
honest with the family."
On Monday, July12, Manuela received a fax from
the district attorney’s office in Harris County, putting into
writing the agreement that Carter had stated. The offer was then
passed on to another relative who acted as emissary between his
sister in Albuquerque and brother Angel in Mexico.
That evening, word came from Ciudad Juarez that
the Railroad Killer would, based on the Carter’s word, surrender.
The long-awaited moment was scheduled for 9 A.M. the following
Tuesday, July 13. Carter was there ahead of time,
accompanied by Manuela and her pastor to act as spiritual guide.
They met on a bridge connecting Zaragosa, Mexico, with El Paso.
"When I saw that face there was a little bit of
excitement there because I finally said, ‘This is going to happen,’"
Carter recalls. He watched Resendez alight from the truck in dirty
jeans and muddy boots. As he neared him, "He stuck out his hand, I
stuck out my hand, and we shook hands."
With the timidity of a true hero, Carter, who
pulled off one of the greatest arrests in Texas Ranger history,
refuses to take full credit for his coup; he cited the support of
the FBI and other law enforcement and county representatives who
helped establish the terms of agreement that convinced the dreaded
Railroad Killer to cross that bridge.
Whoever gets the credit, the event pleased many
and brought relief, especially to the victims’ families and friends.
The Dallas/Fort Worth Internet Service reports, "Several hundred
people in Weimar attended a ceremony to pray and give thanks for the
suspect’s capture. As the sun set and a train whistle blew in the
background, residents of the South Texas town hugged and cried."
But, sometimes anger dies hard. "I wish (Resendez)
the worst," says murder victim Josephine Konvicka’s daughter. "He’s
destroyed so much of our lives."
Law enforcement officials remain perplexed as to
why the Railroad Killer surrendered so freely to a state that has
executed more people than any other. Surely, Resendez must know that,
if convicted of any of the murders in Texas, which seems very likely,
he will face the death penalty.
More so, prosecutors in Harris County -- where on
Thursday, July 22, he was indicted for the murder of Dr. Benton –
hold the national record for sending murderers to the electric chair.
Texas Ranger Carter’s surrender agreement was
very concise in detail. In no way was the verbiage misleading as to
confuse Resendez into believing he would be spared due punishment.
One possible speculation for Resendez’ easy
surrender was that he feared bounty hunters who, it was known, had
gathered in Mexico to collect the reward.
An editorial in The Dallas Morning News reads
thus: "Mr. Resendez faces a long legal process. Some questions
surrounding the surrender itself need to be answered – why did he
not merely ‘lose himself’ in Mexico? Or, given Mexico’s policy
against extraditing alleged murderers to the United States because
of the death penalty here, why did he not simply surrender to
Mexican authorities? Once those questions are answered, (his)
surrender may turn out to be as interesting as the manhunt itself."
In the meantime, his world of endless railroad
tracks has constricted to a 60-square-foot cell at the maximum-security
Harris County Jail.
A cot, a toilet and a wash basin are his life’s
accessories. "Because of the high profile of the case, he’s under
administrative segregation…A deputy has constant visual observation
of him," explains facility spokesperson Celeste Spaugh.
Four murder charges are filed against him and he
faces other possible charges in Kentucky and Illinois. Maybe,
Florida, too. That state is in the process of comparing blood
samplesfound in a 1997 Marion County murder – a body found beside
Mexico Has Questions
There may be a good reason why Angel Resendez
chose not to surrender to Mexican authorities. Perhaps, our
neighbors south of the border want to talk to him, also, about some
killings in Ciudad Juarez.
"We are looking at the homicides we haven’t
cleared that appear to fit his method," states Steve Slater, an
advisor to the Chihuahua State Public Safety Department...He has
family in Juarez, including his mother. He’s been through here a lot.
We certainly have railroad tracks and bodies found by railroad
tracks, and most are women."
Before this case rounds out, Angel Maturino
Resendez may be shown to have taken part in any one of another 200
cases the FBI says fit his modus operandi. He may turn out to be one
of the greatest – or perhaps a better word is infamous – serial
killers of all time.
In any event, the Railroad Killer will no longer
be riding any box cars, so Arlo Guthrie may return to glorifying the
wheat fields of America and the clack-clack-clack of the train
riding mighty iron rails of folklore.
Sentenced to Death
Angel Maturino Resendez has been found guilty of
capital murder and today sits on death row in Livingston, Texas. All
he has to look forward to is a lethal injection that will send him
to God’s judgment.
Jury selection for what would eventually lead to
the eight-day trial of the Railroad Killer began late March 1999, in
Houston, Harris County. The latest chapter of the Resendez drama
began tumultuously with his refusal to play ball even with his own
First, he refused to be tested by a court-appointed
psychiatrist (although he eventually conceded), and then he chose
not to accept a change of venue despite his attorneys’ claims that
he might not get a fair trial in Houston.
Even though Resendez has been formally charged
with the murders of seven people in total, he has only been tried
and convicted of one of those killings, that of Dr. Claudia Benton,
whom he slew in her home in 1988.
Her body had been found a couple of weeks before
Christmas, battered and broken. Several items stolen from Benton’s
home – including fragments of a steering column from Benton’s Jeep
-- were later recovered by police in the house of Resendez’s
girlfriend. As well, Resendez’s fingerprints were found in that same
Presiding over the trial was District Judge
William Harmon; chief prosecutor for the state was County District
Attorney John Holmes, Jr., assisted by Devon Anderson. Court-appointed
defense lawyers Allen Tanner and Rudy Duarte, aware that the state’s
case against their client was air tight, fought to have Resendez
committed on insanity.
The trial faced several postponements. One was
caused by a delay in procuring the findings of several psychiatrists,
to whose examinations Resendez at first would not submit.
Another was generated by the defense council’s
action to move the trial from Harris County to a place where, they
felt, sentiment was less harsh against the headline-making serial
A segment of the motion read, “Publicity (here)
has been inflammatory and unfair and has created such hostility
towards the defendant, and prejudiced the opinions of members of the
community to such a degree, that it is unlikely that a verdict can
be solely reached on the evidence presented at the trial.”
That the court might have decided in favor of the
motion was thwarted when the defendant himself refused to abide with
Opposed to a local trial in the outset, he
changed his mind afterwards stating that he believed that no matter
where he went the public mindset was already poisoned against him.
Despite his attorneys’ pleas, Resendez would not consent.
After the pre-trial upsets were finally settled,
the session commenced to a packed courtroom on May 8, 1999. Judge
Harmon issued a gag order that muzzled lawyers from talking freely
to the press, but the explosion of emotions behind the courtroom
doors was pyrotechnical. Over the next week, a jury equally divided
by male and female members heard a series of witnesses from both
The thrust of the trial seemed to center on
whether or not Resendez was sane or insane when he committed his
crimes, particularly the murder of Dr. Benton.
The defense brought forth forensic psychiatrist
Dr. Bruce Cohen who diagnosed the defendant as schizophrenic. Cohen
claimed that “(Resendez) did not know his conduct was wrong.”
Because of a mental delusion that had him
believing his victims were evil, said Cohen, “(the defendant)
thought he was justified in his behaviors.”
However, a psychiatrist testifying in behalf of
the prosecution presented an altogether different summary. Dr. Ramon
Laval, while agreeing that Resendez did have unhealthy views of
women and of mankind in general, and suffered from misguided
fixations, attested that Resendez “knew what he was doing” when he
murdered Dr. Benton and the others.
With that, Prosecutor Holmes again reminded the
jurors of the Railroad Killer’s savagery unleashed upon his victims
– and, before detailing Dr. Benton’s murder, warned the court that
it is “one of the most horrible that you will ever have the
misfortune to hear.”
Of the twenty-plus witnesses for the prosecution,
the last and most impacting was the 23-year-old girlfriend of victim
Christopher Maier. Maier and she were attacked while strolling home
from a function at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
Raped, bludgeoned and left for dead, she
recovered to identify Resendez as the Railroad Killer. In court, she
detailed the bloody assault, which took place on August 27, 1997,
near local railway tracks.
According to the witness, after Resendez killed
Maier and before he pummeled her, he sardonically told her, “You
don’t have to worry about him anymore.”
In closing arguments, the prosecution pointed to
the heinous nature of Resendez’s crimes, the premeditative nature of
each, the heartlessness displayed and, especially, to the
inescapable evidence of his guilt: fingerprints, palm prints and,
most damaging, DNA evidence collected from the scenes of the crime.
With little weight in their favor, the defense
team merely begged for the mercy of the jurors to spare the life of
the murderer. Meekly, almost pathetically, attorney Rudy Duarte
recalled to the jury, “(Our client) recognized he had a problem, and
he turned himself in. That is something.”
The jurors felt no sympathy. On May17, 1999,
after 10 hours of deliberation, the panel pronounced Angel Maturino
Resendez guilty of first-degree, premeditated murder. Despite his
lawyers’ pleas, the Railroad Killer was sentenced to death.
A half-hearted appeals process awash, Resendez
now awaits his fate in silence.George Benton cannot easily forgive
his wife Claudia’s murderer. “It’s been hard,” he confesses, and
remembers the day he had to tell his daughters that their mother was
killed in fury.
One victim’s mother summed up her life since the
murder of her kin, including the terrible memories disinterred at
the trial: “It was like watching a horror movie.”
Ángel Maturino Reséndiz, aka The Railway Killer,
(August 1, 1959 – June 27, 2006) was a convicted serial killer,
executed in the U.S. state of Texas. He was a legal immigrant from
Mexico, doctor in sciences, he wandered the United
States on trains to commit his crimes.
For the serial murders, on June 21, 1999 he
briefly became the 457th fugitive listed by the FBI on the Ten Most
Wanted Fugitives list.
He was 39 years old when he was arrested in July
1999. He had been chiefly known, and sought, under the alias Rafael
Resendez-Ramirez up until that date but he had about thirty other
aliases that he used. One of these, Ángel Reyes Reséndiz was very
close to the name given on his birth certificate from Izúcar de
Matamoros, Puebla: Ángel Leoncio Reyes Recendis .
Murders and methodology
He evaded authorities for a considerable time, having no fixed
addresses, and making undocumented international transit between
Mexico, the United States, and Canada until he was captured.
Local residents in the area of the Benton and the
Sirnics' murders were terrified that he might reappear, especially
those living near train tracks. He was also known as a "Railroad
Killer" Reséndiz killed at least 15 people  with rocks and other
objects, mainly in their homes, to steal money for alcohol and drugs.
He raped some of his female victims, though rape
only served as a secondary intent. Most of his victims were found
covered with a blanket, or otherwise obscured from immediate view.
The following deaths are attributed to Reséndiz:
1. August 29, 1997, Lexington, Kentucky,
Christopher Maier, 21 years old. He was a University of Kentucky
student walking along nearby railroad tracks with his girlfriend
when the two were attacked by Reséndiz, who bludgeoned Maier to
death. Reséndiz raped and severely beat Maier's girlfriend, who
nearly died as a result.
2. October 4, 1998, Hughes Springs, Texas, Leafie
Mason, 81 years old. She was hammered to death with a fire iron by
Reséndiz, who entered through a window. Fifty yards outside her door
was the Kansas City-Southern Rail line.
3. December 17, 1998, West University Place,
Texas, Claudia Benton, 39. Benton, who studied at the Baylor College
of Medicine and worked with children, was raped, stabbed, and
bludgeoned repeatedly after she entered her home, which is near the
West University train tracks. Police found her Jeep Cherokee in San
Antonio and found Reséndiz's fingerprints on the steering column.
After the murder, Reséndiz had a warrant for his arrest for burglary,
but not yet for murder.
4 and 5. May 2, 1999, Weimar, Texas, Norman J.
Sirnic, 46 years old, and Karen Sirnic, 47 years old. The Sirnics
were bludgeoned to death by a sledgehammer in a parsonage of the
United Church of Christ, where Norman Sirnic was a pastor. The
building was located adjacent to a railroad. The Sirnics' red Mazda
was also found in San Antonio three weeks later, and fingerprints
link their case with the Claudia Benton case.
6. June 4, 1999, Houston, Texas, Noemi Dominguez,
26 years old. Dominguez, a schoolteacher at Benjamin Franklin
Elementary School, was bludgeoned to death in her apartment near the
rail tracks. Seven days later, her white Honda Civic was discovered
by state troopers on the International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
7. June 4, 1999, Fayette County, Texas, Josephine
Konvicka, 73 years old. Konvicka was killed by the blow of a pointed
garden tool on the head while she lay sleeping. Her farmhouse is not
far from Weimar. Reséndiz attempted to steal the car but was unable
to take it away since he could not find the car keys.
8. and 9. June 15, 1999, Gorham, Illinois, George
Morber Senior, 80 years old, and Carolyn Frederick, 52 years old.
Reséndiz shot George Morber in the head with a shotgun and then
clubbed Carolyn Frederick to death. Their house was located only 100
yards (90 m) away from a railroad line. Later, an onlooker sees a
man matching Reséndiz's description driving Carolyn Frederick's red
pickup truck in Cairo, Illinois, which is located 60 miles south of
In addition, Reséndiz admitted to three earlier
1. March 23, 1997, Ocala, Florida, Jesse Howell,
19 years old. He was bludgeoned to death with an air hose coupling
and left beside the tracks.
2. March 23, 1997, We Hope, Florida, Wendy
VonHuben, 16 years old. She was raped, strangled, suffocated and
buried in a shallow grave approximately 30 miles (48 km) away from
her fiancé, Jesse Howell.
3. On Wednesday, April 12, 2006, the San Antonio
Police Department announced it had cleared the unsolved murder of
Michael White, who was found shot to death in July of 1991 in the
front yard of a vacant house in downtown San Antonio.
According to San Antonio police, Angel Reséndiz
gave them precise details about the murder, and has now been named
Arrest and trial
The police tracked down Reséndiz's sister, Manuela. Manuela feared
that her brother might kill someone else or be killed by the FBI, so
she agreed to help the police.
A Texas Ranger, Drew Carter, accompanied by
Manuela and a spiritual guide met up with Reséndiz on a bridge
connecting El Paso, Texas, with Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Reséndiz
surrendered to him.
The state of Texas tried Reséndiz for the murder
of Dr. Claudia Benton. He was found guilty and was sentenced to
death by lethal injection.
In 1999, former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox
— wary of the controversy miring the many confessions and
recantations by Henry Lee Lucas — remarked of Reséndiz that "I hope
they don't start pinning on him every crime that happens near a
railroad track." 
On June 21, 2006, a Houston judge ruled that Reséndiz was mentally
competent to be executed. Upon hearing the judge's ruling, Reséndiz
said, "I don't believe in death. I know the body is going to go to
waste. But me, as a person, I'm eternal. I'm going to be alive
He also described himself as half-man and half-angel
and told psychiatrists he couldn't be executed because he didn't
believe he could die. However, statements like the above have led
specialists to conclude in the contrary — that Reséndiz is not
competent to be executed.
In the words of a bilingual psychiatrist who
evaluated Reséndiz on two occasions in 2006, “delusions had
completely taken over [Reséndiz’s] thought processes.” 
Ángel Maturino Reséndiz received an execution date set for June 27,
2006, by lethal injection. Although he did have an appeal pending
with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, he had the death warrant
signed for the murder of Dr. Claudia Benton, a Houston-area
physician killed in her home a week before Christmas 1998.
Ángel Reséndiz was executed in Huntsville, Texas,
on June 27, 2006, by lethal injection. In his final statement,
Reséndiz asked for forgiveness.
Reséndiz was pronounced dead at 8:05 p.m. central
time (9:05 ET). The execution was the 13th of the year in the
nation's most active death penalty state.
Resendiz v. State,
112 S.W.3d 541 (Tex.Crim.App. 2003) (Direct Appeal)
Defendant was convicted in the 178th District
Court, Harris County, W.T. Harmon, J., of capital murder, and
sentenced to death. On automatic direct appeal, the Court of
Criminal Appeals of Texas, Meyers, J., held that: (1) sufficient
evidence supported jury's finding that defendant would be a
continuing threat to society; (2) trial court did not abuse its
discretion in capital murder prosecution in excluding crime scene
photographs relating to extraneous offenses committed by defendant;
and (3) expert's testimony, that as a geographically mobile
organized sexual serial killer, defendant displayed criminal
sophistication rather than psychotic behavior, was relevant.
Affirmed. Keller, P.J., concurred in part. Womack, J., filed
dissenting opinion in which Johnson, J., joined.
MEYERS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court,
in which PRICE, KEASLER, HERVEY, HOLCOMB, and COCHRAN, J.J., joined.
On May 18, 2000, appellant was convicted of
capital murder. Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 19.03(a). Pursuant to the
jury's answers to the special issues set forth in Texas Code of
Criminal Procedure Article 37.071, sections 2(b) and 2(e), the trial
judge sentenced appellant to death. Art. 37.071 § 2(g).FN1 Direct
appeal to this Court is automatic. Art. 37.071 § 2(h). Appellant
raises sixteen points of error. We affirm. FN1. Unless otherwise
indicated all future references to articles refer to the Texas Code
of Criminal Procedure.
In his third point of error, appellant claims the
evidence is insufficient to support the jury's finding that he would
be a continuing threat to society.
In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence at
punishment, this Court looks at the evidence in the light most
favorable to the verdict to determine whether any rational trier of
fact could have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant
would probably commit criminal acts of violence that would
constitute a continuing threat to society. See Jackson v. Virginia,
443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); Allridge v.
State, 850 S.W.2d 471, 487 (Tex.Crim.App.1991), cert. denied,510 U.S.
831, 114 S.Ct. 101, 126 L.Ed.2d 68 (1993).
Appellant was convicted of the capital murder of
Dr. Claudia Benton. The State presented evidence that in December of
1998, appellant unlawfully entered Benton's home and brutally
stabbed her to death. Additional evidence showed that appellant
attempted to sexually assault Benton.
At punishment, the jury heard evidence of
numerous other murders committed by appellant. Holly Dunn testified
that in August of 1997, appellant approached her and Christopher
Maier near some railroad tracks in Lexington, Kentucky. Appellant
robbed Dunn and Maier.
He then bound Maier's hands and feet and gagged
him. Appellant picked up a large object and beat Maier in the head
with it, crushing his skull. After murdering Maier, appellant
sexually assaulted Dunn.
He then hit her in the head with a large object
and left the scene. Dunn survived, but suffered multiple*544 facial
fractures and the trauma of the sexual assault.
In October of 1998, appellant unlawfully entered
the home of 87-year-old Leafie Mason in Hughes Springs, Texas.
Appellant killed Mason by hitting her in the head with an iron.
In May of 1999, appellant traveled to Weimar,
Texas, and beat Skip and Karen Sirnic to death with a sledge hammer
while they slept in their home. He also sexually assaulted Karen
In June of 1999, appellant unlawfully entered
Noemi Dominguez's home, sexually assaulted her, and killed her with
Appellant stole Dominguez's car and traveled to
Schulenberg, Texas, where he killed 73-year-old Josephine Konvicka
with the same pickax used on Dominguez.
Appellant left the pickax embedded in Konvicka's
head. Also in June of 1999, appellant unlawfully entered 80-year-old
George Morber's home in Gorham, Illinois. Morber's daughter, Carolyn
Frederick, was with Morber when appellant broke in. Appellant tied
Morber to a chair and shot him in the back of the head with a
Appellant then sexually assaulted Frederick and
struck her in the head with the shotgun with such force that the
shotgun broke into two pieces. Neither Morber nor Frederick survived.
The facts of the instant case and appellant's
history permit a rational juror to conclude that appellant would
continue to be a threat to society.
Accordingly, we hold the evidence legally
sufficient to support the jury's affirmative answer to the future
dangerousness issue. Jackson, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d
560; Allridge, 850 S.W.2d at 487. Appellant's third point of error
In his first point of error, appellant claims he
was denied a fair trial when the trial court refused to admit crime
scene photographs relating to extraneous offenses committed by
In his second point of error, appellant argues
the trial court abused its discretion in excluding the photographs
because the probative value of the photographs was not outweighed by
“any valid justification.”
At the guilt phase of trial, Dr. Bruce Cohen
testified for the defense that he believed appellant was insane at
the time he committed the capital murder in this case.
He testified that he relied on various interviews,
letters, records, and reports, as well as crime scene photographs of
six other murders committed by appellant in forming his opinion.
On direct examination, Cohen was shown the crime
scene photographs and was asked to describe to the jury what the
photographs depicted. The defense then offered the photographs into
The State objected pursuant to Rule of Evidence
705(d) that the photographs were not relevant simply because Cohen
relied upon them to form his opinion.
Specifically, the State argued that the
photographs were not relevant because the question in this case was
whether appellant was insane at the time he committed Benton's
murder, not the murders depicted in the photographs. The trial court
sustained the State's objection. 
This Court reviews the trial court's ruling under
an abuse of discretion standard and will not reverse the trial
court's ruling unless it falls outside the zone of reasonable
disagreement. Salazar v. State, 38 S.W.3d 141, 151 (Tex.Crim.App.),
cert. denied,534 U.S. 855, 122 S.Ct. 127, 151 L.Ed.2d 82 (2001);
Moreno v. State, 22 S.W.3d 482, 487 (Tex.Crim.App.1999).
Rule 705(d) instructs that when the underlying
facts or data used by an expert to form his opinion are inadmissible,
the court shall exclude the underlying facts or data if the danger
that they will be used “for a purpose other than as explanation or
support for the expert's opinion outweighs their value as
explanation or support or are unfairly prejudicial.” Tex.R. Evid.
When the trial judge ruled the photographs
inadmissible, he stated, “To see the photographs will not be any
assistance to the jury, so I'm going to sustain the objection.”
Later in the guilt phase of trial, the defense attempted to admit
the photographs again.
The trial court sustained the State's objection
and related that, “the only purpose for which they [the jurors]
could consider the photographs was for the purpose of assessing the
validity of the doctor's opinions and, quite frankly, they might
consider it for, uhm, other purposes.”
The trial court ruled that the crime scene photos
were not relevant because they did not depict the crime scene where
Benton was killed, thus they were inadmissible. Tex.R. Evid. 402.
The court then conducted the balancing test for
inadmissible evidence under Rule 705(d) and determined that the
photographs could have been used for improper purposes.
The court also gave an alternative theory for
excluding the photographs, even if they were relevant, stating: “But
relevant evidence may still be excluded by the court under Rule 403.
If, uhm, it's, you know, cumulative, you know, needless delay,
confusion of the issues, and basically it's under that rule as well.”
Under Rule 401, evidence is relevant if it has
the tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of
consequence to the determination of the case more or less probable
than it would be without the evidence. The photographs in this case
were relevant because they go to the issue of appellant's sanity.
Viewing multiple photographs of various crime
scenes may make the jury more likely to find that no “normal” person
could commit such gruesome acts, and thus find that appellant is
mentally ill or “crazy.”
However, as stated by the trial court, under Rule
403, relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is
substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice,
confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by
considerations of undue delay, or needless presentation of
Evidence may confuse or mislead the jury if it
distracts the jury from the main issues in the case or tends to
focus the jury's attention on facts tangential to the case before
The photographs in question were likely to
distract the jury from the facts of the crime charged and focus
their attention on other crime scenes. While the photographs were
relevant to the issue of appellant's sanity, merely viewing the
photographs would not necessarily prove that appellant was legally
insane, therefore their probative value was limited.
Additionally, viewing the other crime scenes may
have led to confusion regarding the difference between appellant
being “crazy” and the issue of legal insanity as defined in Texas
Penal Code Section 8.01.FN2
While gruesome and shocking photographs depicting
other crime scenes may convince the jury that appellant has
committed acts unthinkable to most “normal” people, this does not
mean that, at the time of the Benton offense, appellant did not know
that his conduct was wrong as *546 required under Section 8.01(a).
Additionally, Section 8.01(b) specifically states
that abnormality manifested by repeated criminal conduct, such as
the multiple murders depicted in the photographs, is not to be
considered a mental disease or defect that negates the
responsibility of appellant for the charged offense.
FN2. Section 8.01 of the Texas Penal Code states
that: (a)It is an affirmative defense to prosecution that, at the
time of the conduct charged, the actor, as a result of severe mental
disease or defect, did not know that his conduct was wrong. he
danger that the photographs would confuse or mislead the jury
outweighs their probative value, the trial court did not abuse its
discretion in excluding these particular photographs.
The trial court's alternative theory for the
exclusion of the photographs under Rule 403 was correct. Appellant's
first and second points of error are overruled.
In his fourth point of error, appellant contends
the future dangerousness special issue was unconstitutional because
that issue was not susceptible to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
In other words, appellant argues that in the
capital punishment context, jurors apply a higher standard than
proof beyond a reasonable doubt because they will tolerate virtually
no risk in assessing future danger.
The jury was properly instructed on the burden of
proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We presume the jury follows the
trial court's instructions. Colburn v. State, 966 S.W.2d 511, 520 (Tex.Crim.App.1998).
Appellant presents no evidence to rebut this presumption.
Appellant's fourth point of error is overruled.
In his fifth point of error, appellant argues that the trial court's
failure to provide a definition of ‘society’ in the special issue on
future dangerousness resulted in appellant's death sentence in
violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United
We have previously rejected this argument. McDuff
v. State, 939 S.W.2d 607, 620 (Tex.Crim.App.), cert. denied,522 U.S.
844, 118 S.Ct. 125, 139 L.Ed.2d 75 (1997). Appellant's fifth point
of error is overruled.
In his sixth point of error, appellant claims the
trial court erred in admitting the expert testimony of FBI Special
Agent Alan Brantley because his testimony was not shown to be
Appellant did not object to the reliability of
Brantley's testimony at trial. Therefore, he has not preserved error
for our review. Tex.R.App. P. 33.1.
Appellant also contends that Brantley's testimony
should not have been admitted because it was not relevant. Appellant
made a relevancy objection at trial.
Evidence is “relevant” if it has “any tendency to
make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the
determination of the action more probable or less probable than it
would be without the evidence.” Tex.R. Evid. 401.
We review the trial court's decision to admit
evidence under an abuse of discretion standard. Salazar, 38 S.W.3d
at 151; Moreno, 22 S.W.3d at 487. We will reverse the trial judge's
decision only if it is outside the zone of reasonable disagreement.
The State called Brantley to rebut appellant's
insanity defense. Brantley testified that in June of 1999, he was
contacted by the Houston Division of the FBI to consult with FBI
agents, local police officers, and state law enforcement officials
regarding this case.
He visited several crime scenes in Texas which
were later connected to appellant. He also reviewed appellant's
medical records, witness statements, letters written by appellant,
and interviews with law enforcement.
Based on these documents, his tour of the crime
scenes, his education as a clinical psychologist, and his many years
of experience, Brantley formed the opinion that appellant is an
“organized sexual serial killer” who is “geographically mobile.”
Brantley described an organized sexual serial
killer as *547 an offender who committed “well-planned, well-orchestrated”
multiple murders with a sexual element.
In this case, appellant displayed the
characteristics of an organized sexual serial killer by committing
murders at night, using rear locations to enter homes, committing
murders near railroad tracks, and selecting random victims.
He displayed the characteristics of a
geographically mobile offender by traveling nationally and
internationally. Brantley testified that all of those
characteristics demonstrated an effort to elude law enforcement.
Brantley related that as a geographically mobile
organized sexual serial killer, appellant displayed criminal
sophistication rather than psychotic behavior.
Brantley's testimony was relevant to rebut
appellant's defensive theory of insanity. As such, the trial court
did not abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony.
Appellant argues further that even if Brantley's
testimony was relevant, it should not have been admitted at trial
because any probative value of the testimony was substantially
outweighed by unfair prejudice pursuant to Texas Rule of Evidence
403. At trial, appellant made only one Rule 403 objection to
[THE STATE]: Is there any-is the fact that the
type of people that became victims of his crimes any indication
about trying to avoid detection?
[BRANTLEY]: Well, that's another classic, uhm, example or element of
the organized offender.
They select victims that are strangers, so this
random victim selection is intent on eluding law enforcement
authority better, because when you consider basic law enforcement
homicide investigative techniques they generally start with the
victim's inner circle of friends, family, and associates in an
attempt to develop a suspect pool, if you will.
[THE DEFENSE]: Excuse me, sir. At this time, judge, we're going to
object to this. It's speculative and irrelevant to this case at hand.
[THE COURT]: Overruled.
[THE DEFENSE]: And, for the record, judge, we object. If the court
believes it relevant, that its prejudicial value outweighs any
probative value, and that our further objection is that none of this
is from this witness's personal knowledge.
[THE COURT]: Overruled.
Appellant objected only to Brantley's testimony
regarding the random selection of victims. On appeal, however,
appellant argues that Brantley's testimony was unfairly prejudicial
because profile evidence is inherently unreliable and because
Brantley did not interview appellant.FN3
Appellant's trial objection does not comport with
the claim he now raises. Tex.R.App. P. 33.1; Ibarra v. State, 11 S.W.3d
189, 197 (Tex.Crim.App.1999), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 828, 121 S.Ct.
79, 148 L.Ed.2d 41 (2000). Appellant's sixth point of error is
overruled. FN3. The defense denied Brantley the opportunity to
In his seventh, eleventh, and twelfth points of
error, appellant claims he received ineffective assistance of
In order to prevail on a claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel, appellant must satisfy the two-prong test set
forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80
L.Ed.2d 674 (1984).
Specifically, he must show that counsel's
performance was deficient and that he was prejudiced by counsel's
In order to demonstrate prejudice, appellant
“must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the *548 proceeding
would have been different.” Id. at 694, 104 S.Ct.2052.
There is “a strong presumption that counsel's
conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional
assistance [.]” Id. at 689, 104 S.Ct. 2052.
In his seventh point of error, appellant argues
that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his
attorney failed to effectively cross-examine Brantley. Specifically,
he asserts that counsel should have questioned Brantley about the
reliability of profile evidence.
The suggestion that cross-examination should have
been conducted in another manner does not rebut the presumption that
counsel's conduct fell within the wide range of reasonable
professional assistance. Ex parte Perkins, 706 S.W.2d 320, 323 (Tex.Crim.App.1986).
Further, on cross-examination, counsel elicited
testimony from Brantley that there were “disorganized” elements at
the crime scenes which indicated that appellant was not consciously
eluding detection, suggesting that appellant may have been acting in
a psychotic manner.
Counsel also questioned Brantley about
appellant's travels and Brantley admitted that appellant had been
stopped at the United States/Mexico border on at least one occasion
during his crime spree but was later released, suggesting that
appellant was not as intent on evading capture as a sophisticated
criminal would be.
The record reflects that counsel effectively
cross-examined Brantley. As such, appellant fails to meet the
requirements of the first prong of the Strickland test.
In his eleventh and twelfth points of error,
appellant contends he is entitled to a new punishment hearing
because his attorney was ineffective for failing to object to the
State's jury argument that the jury could not consider evidence of
appellant's troubled background or the actions of law enforcement in
securing appellant's arrest as mitigating evidence unless they first
found that evidence somehow reduced appellant's moral
The following is the relevant portion of the
State's jury argument:
Special Issue No. 2 asked you to look at the
charge. I'm sorry. Look at all the evidence again. Look at
everything you've heard from the beginning. Looking at three things
in particular; the circumstances of the offense, the defendant's
character, and background, and his personal moral culpability.
And it asked you to look at all of that stuff and
see if you find anything, mitigating circumstances, and one thing we
didn't talk about in voir dire that is in this charge is what a
mitigating circumstance could be, which is evidence that one of you
may find reducing the defendant's moral blameworthiness.
That's, that's what you are supposed to go
through and look for. Anything in the record that reduces his moral
And, once again, I want you to base this answer
on the evidence, and I challenge you to find anything in the record
over the last two weeks that reduces his moral blameworthiness.
The State did not instruct the jury that it could
not consider evidence of appellant's background or his dealings with
law enforcement as mitigating evidence without first finding that
the evidence reduced appellant's moral blameworthiness.
Therefore, appellant has not met the requirements
of either prong of the Strickland test. Appellant's seventh,
eleventh, and twelfth points of error are overruled.
In his eighth point of error, appellant argues
the 12-10 rule of Article 37.071 which requires ten votes for the
jury to return a negative answer to the first or second special
issue and at least ten votes for the jury to return an affirmative
answer to the third special issue violates the Eighth Amendment to
the United States Constitution.
We have repeatedly rejected identical claims.
Johnson v. State, 68 S.W.3d 644, 656 (Tex.Crim.App.2002); Wright v.
State, 28 S.W.3d 526, 537 (Tex.Crim.App.2000), cert. denied,531 U.S.
1128, 121 S.Ct. 885, 148 L.Ed.2d 793 (2001); Chamberlain v. State,
998 S.W.2d 230, 238 (Tex.Crim.App.1999), cert. denied,528 U.S. 1082,
120 S.Ct. 805, 145 L.Ed.2d 678 (2000). Appellant's eighth point of
error is overruled.
In his ninth point of error, appellant asserts
the trial court erred in denying his request to inform the jury that
the failure to answer a special issue would result in a life
sentence. He claims the trial court's denial violated his rights
under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
We have repeatedly rejected identical claims.
Chamberlain, 998 S.W.2d at 238; McFarland v. State, 928 S.W.2d 482,
519 (Tex.Crim.App.1996), cert. denied,519 U.S. 1119, 117 S.Ct. 966,
136 L.Ed.2d 851 (1997). Appellant's ninth point of error is
In his tenth point of error, appellant claims
that “the language in the jury charge informing jurors that in order
for the court to assess the ‘proper punishment’ it was necessary for
them to answer the special issues, in conjunction with the absence
of an instruction informing them of the consequences of their
inability to agree on an answer to a special issue, was so likely to
mislead the jury that it would violate the Eighth Amendment.”
Appellant cites no case law to support his argument. Tex.R.App. P.
Nonetheless, Article 37.071, section 2(a)(1)
prohibits the trial court from instructing the jury on the effect of
a failure to reach a unanimous decision regarding the special issues.
Further, the United States Supreme Court has held
that the Eighth Amendment does not require that juries be informed
of the effect of any failure to reach a unanimous agreement
regarding punishment. Jones v. United States, 527 U.S. 373, 119 S.Ct.
2090, 144 L.Ed.2d 370 (1999). Appellant's tenth point of error is
In his thirteenth point of error, appellant
claims that under Mosley v. State, 983 S.W.2d 249 (1998), cert.
denied,526 U.S. 1070, 119 S.Ct. 1466, 143 L.Ed.2d 550 (1999), and
Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d
435 (2000), the mitigation special issue is infirm under the Eighth
Amendment to the United States Constitution because it omits a
burden of proof.
In point of error fourteen, he claims that after
Mosley, the mitigation special issue is infirm under the Eighth
Amendment because it makes impossible any meaningful appellate
review of the jury's determination.
In point of error fifteen, appellant claims that
Article 44.251, requiring appellate review of sufficiency of all
capital punishment issues, when interpreted in conjunction with
Article 37.071, section 2(e), placing no burden of proof in the
mitigation special issue is infirm under the Eighth Amendment.
We have addressed and rejected the claim that the
mitigation special issue is infirm as a matter of federal
constitutional law because it omits a burden of proof. Jackson v.
State, 33 S.W.3d 828, 840-841 (Tex.Crim.App.2000), cert. denied,532
U.S. 1068, 121 S.Ct. 2221, 150 L.Ed.2d 213 (2001); McFarland, 928
S.W.2d at 498-99.
We have also addressed and rejected the claim
that the mitigation special issue violates the Eighth Amendment on
the ground that meaningful appellate review of the jury's
determination is impossible. Prystash v. State, 3 S.W.3d 522, 535-36
Appellant argues that the absence of a burden of
proof is also a problem under the United States Supreme Court's
opinion in Apprendi.
In Apprendi, the Supreme Court held that sentence
enhancements based on judicial fact findings violated due process.
The Court held, “[o]ther than the fact of a prior
conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond
the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and
proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” Apprendi, 530 U.S. at 490, 120
Appellant contends that Apprendi requires the
State to bear the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the
mitigation issue should be answered in the negative. Appellant reads
Apprendi too broadly.
Apprendi applies to facts that increase the
penalty beyond the “prescribed statutory maximum.” Under Article
37.071, the statutory maximum is fixed at death. There are no
A positive jury finding on the mitigation issue
does not have the potential of increasing the penalty; rather, it
has the potential to reduce a defendant's sentence.
Further, with respect to appellant's claim the
State should bear the burden of proof as to mitigation, Apprendi
does not address this burden.
As to point of error fifteen, we have rejected
identical claims and decline to revisit the issue. Tong v. State, 25
S.W.3d 707, 715 (Tex.Crim.App.2000), cert. denied,532 U.S. 1053, 121
S.Ct. 2196, 149 L.Ed.2d 1027 (2001). Appellant's thirteenth,
fourteenth, and fifteenth points of error are overruled.
In his sixteenth point of error, appellant
contends that Texas Penal Code section 8.01 is unconstitutional
because it does not define the words “know” and “wrong.” He claims
that the result is the arbitrary and capricious imposition of the
There is no error in omitting the definition of a
word used in the statute when the word is used in its ordinary sense
and is easily comprehended by everyone. Russell v. State, 665 S.W.2d
771, 780 (Tex.Crim.App.1983), citing Humphreys v. State, 34 Tex.Crim.
434, 30 S.W. 1066 (1895).
If there is no statutory definition of a term,
the trial court is not obligated to define the term when it “has
such a common and ordinary meaning that jurors can be fairly
presumed to know and apply such meaning.” Phillips v. State, 597 S.W.2d
929, 937 (Tex.Crim.App.1980).
Likewise, when the terms used are simple in
themselves and are used in their ordinary meaning, such as they are
in this case, jurors are supposed to know their meaning, and
therefore, a definition in the jury charge is not necessary. Hogan
v. State, 496 S.W.2d 594, 599 (Tex.Crim.App.), cert. denied,414 U.S.
862, 94 S.Ct. 81, 38 L.Ed.2d 112 (1973), quoting Joubert v. State,
136 Tex.Crim. 219, 124 S.W.2d 368, 369 (1938). The terms “know” and
“wrong,” though not defined in the statute, are common and easily
comprehended. Appellant's sixteenth point of error is overruled. We
affirm the judgment of the trial court.
KELLER, P.J., concurred in points of error one
and two and otherwise joined the opinion of the Court.
WOMACK, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which
JOHNSON, J., joined.
This opinion should be substituted for the one
that was filed on May 21, 2003. The appellant raised the defense
that he was insane at the time he committed this homicide.
As bases for his opinion on the issue of sanity,
the appellant's expert witness used the facts of this homicide and
six other homicides that the appellant committed. These facts
included photographs of the scenes of the other homicides, which the
appellant offered in evidence.
Were the Photographs Irrelevant?
The State objected to the photographs of the six
other scenes as not being relevant, and the trial court sustained
the objection. It seems to be beyond serious question that the
objection of irrelevance had no merit, since the Court treats the
matter as one in which relevant evidence was excluded under Rule of
Evidence 403.FN1 FN1. “The trial court's alternative theory for the
exclusion of the photographs under Rule 403 was correct.” Ante, at
Were the Photographs Inadmissible Evidence
Underlying the Opinion of an Expert Witness?
The Court says the trial court also “conducted
the balancing test for inadmissible evidence under Rule 705(d) and
determined that the photographs could have been used for improper
purposes.” FN2 The Court does not further discuss that rule. FN2.
Ante, at 545. Our Rule of Evidence 703 states that an expert
witness's opinion may be based on facts or data that are not
admissible in evidence if they are of a type reasonably relied on by
experts in the field in forming opinions or inferences on the
subject. Further, “[t]he expert may in any event disclose on direct
examination ··· the underlying facts or data.” FN3 FN3. Tex.R. Evid.
These rules are a departure from the view of the
majority of common law courts that forbade an expert witness's
opinion to be based on hearsay or reports that were not in
Although there was “a strong case law trend
toward a contrary view,” FN5 it did not include the cases of the
Texas courts. “Prior to the adoption of Rule 703, Texas courts
refused to permit experts to state opinions based solely on hearsay
outside the record, regardless of its admissibility or
inadmissibility. As late as 1980, this rule was reaffirmed by the
Texas Supreme Court ··· [and a] year later, the Court of Criminal
FN4. “A question calling for a direct opinion
based upon firsthand knowledge of an expert is so direct, simple,
and thus effective that a party may for similar reasons desire to
obtain an opinion based upon reports of others.
There formerly was a majority view, however, that
a question is improper if it calls for the witness' opinion on the
basis of reports that are not in evidence or are inadmissible in
evidence under the hearsay rule (without reciting their contents as
hypotheses, to be supported by other evidence as to their truth.)
The essential reason in support of this view is
that seemed to be that the jury was asked to accept as evidence the
witness' inference, based upon someone's hearsay or upon other
inadmissible facts which were presumably not supported by any
evidence at the trial and which therefore the jury had no basis for
finding to be true ···· [A] broader view [was taken] in Federal Rule
of Evidence 703, which has been adopted in various state
jurisdictions.” Edward W. Cleary, McCormick on Evidence 38-39 (3d ed.1984).
FN5. Id., at 39. FN6. Steven Goode, Olin Guy Wellborn, III, and M.
Michael Sharlot, 2 Texas Practice-Guide to the Texas Rules of
Evidence: Civil and Criminal § 703.3 (2d ed.1993) (footnotes omitted).
Perhaps this is why Texas' Rule 705(d), unlike
the federal rules, mandates a balancing test if the underlying facts
or data are inadmissible in evidence. “When the underlying facts or
data would be inadmissible in evidence, the court shall exclude the
underlying facts or data if the danger that they will be used for a
purpose other than an explanation or support for the expert's
opinion outweighs their value as explanation or support, or are
unfairly beneficial.” FN7 Exclusion is not always required. “Usually
··· a limiting instruction will suffice to negate the danger that
the jury will improperly consider the inadmissible hearsay for its
substantive purpose and ··· Rule 705(d) requires that one be given
upon timely request.” FN8 FN7. Tex.R. Evid. 705(d). FN8. Goode et
al., supra note 6, § 705.3. These photographs were not hearsay or
extra-record evidence on which the expert relied. Rule 705(d) plays
no part, in my view.
Was the Evidence Confusing or Misleading?
The trial court also ruled “under Rule 403” that
the evidence was “cumulative,” would cause “needless delay,” and
“confusion of the issues.” FN9 FN9. Ante, at 545.“Although relevant,
evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially
outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the
issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay,
or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” Tex.R. Evid. 403.
The Court says, “The photographs in question were
likely to distract the jury from the facts of the crime charged and
focus their attention on other crime scenes.” FN10 There was no
dispute about the conduct and the result of the offense that was
charged, and hence no danger of distraction from those facts. FN10.
Ante, at 545.
The disputed fact of this homicide was the
appellant's sanity at the time he committed it. The parties agreed
that this homicide was one of a series of homicides that the
The opinion of the appellant's expert witness was
that the facts of all the homicides were relevant to the appellant's
sanity in this homicide.
Surely they were relevant. The trial court
received in evidence the facts of the other offenses, and there
seems to be no disagreement about their relevance. I believe the
correct question is whether photographs of the scenes of those
admittedly relevant homicides would be a distraction from the only
contested issue, which was the appellant's sanity. If the Court
would consider that question, perhaps it would hold, as I do, that
the photographs would not have been a distraction from the contested
Did the Evidence Lack Probative Value?
Although admitting that the photographs “were
relevant to the issue of appellant's sanity,” the Court says that
“merely viewing the photographs would not necessarily prove that
appellant was legally insane, therefore their probative value was
limited.” FN11 What does this mean? “Necessarily” means “inevitably”
or “as a necessary result,” and “necessary,” in this usage, means “unavoidable.”
FN12 FN11. Ante, at 545 (punctuation sic ). FN12. SeeOxford American
Dictionary 444 (1980).
If this, or any, evidence necessarily proved an
excuse like insanity, I suppose that a court would direct an
acquittal. “Necessarily proving” a fact is not a requisite for
evidence to admissibility. All that is required is that evidence be
Relevant evidence is “evidence having any
tendency to make the existence of any fact *553 that is of
consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less
probable than it would be without the evidence.” FN14 FN13. “All
relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the
Constitution, by statute, by these rules, or by other rules
prescribed pursuant to statutory authority. Evidence which is not
relevant is inadmissible.” Tex.R. Evid. 401. FN14. Tex.R. Evid. 403
The Court says that because these photographs
would not necessarily prove that appellant was insane, “therefore
their probative value was limited.” FN15 Now, all evidence has
limited probative value; I have not heard of any evidence that had
unlimited probative value. Is the limited value of this evidence
different from the limited value of other evidence? Or is all
evidence that has limited value also evidence does that does not
necessarily prove a fact?
Is there any meaningful way to distinguish the
limited probative value of these photographs from the probative
value of any other item of evidence? Or does a trial court have
discretion to exclude every item of evidence because every item has
limited probative value? FN15. Ante, at 545.
Would the Evidence Confuse Abnormal with Insane?
The Court says, “While gruesome and shocking
photographs depicting other crime scenes may convince the jury that
appellant has committed acts unthinkable to most ‘normal’ people,
this does not mean that, at the time of the Benton offense,
appellant did not know that his conduct was wrong as required under
Additionally, Section 8.01(b) specifically states
that abnormality manifested by repeated criminal conduct, such as
the multiple murders depicted in the photographs, is not to be
considered a mental disease or defect.” FN16 FN16. Ante, at 545-46.
The Court misstates the statute, which says that “ ‘mental disease
or defect’ does not include an abnormality manifested only by
repeated criminal … conduct.” FN17
Surely the Court cannot mean that a person who
repeatedly commits crimes cannot be found to have a mental disease
or defect that is also manifested in other ways. FN17. Tex. Penal
Code § 8.01(b).
The more important aspect of the Court's
statement is the previous sentence, in which it says that evidence
of the appellant's conduct does not “mean” that he was insane-once
again devaluing this evidence because it did not conclusively prove
the issue of insanity, which no evidence has ever done or can ever
The sentence also says that photographs of the
scenes of a person's six homicides might show that the person was
unthinkably abnormal, but might confuse the issue of whether he was
insane. How? Why?
Now, the trial court received oral evidence about
the other homicides as relevant to the issue of insanity. Is the
Court saying that that evidence also was relevant to abnormality,
but not insanity? Can there be evidence of insanity that is not also
evidence of abnormality?
If there can be, how does the Court know that
these photographs are evidence of the latter and not the former? Or
is it the photographic nature of the excluded evidence that makes it
more relevant to abnormality than to insanity?
Is that true of all photographs, or only of
homicide-scene photographs? Or is there something about these
particular photographs that would turn a juror's mind away from the
issue of insanity, and into the irrelevant area of abnormality?
They Should Have Been Admitted.
No one suggests that the photographs of the six
other homicides that the appellant *554 committed were misleading or
unreliable in any way.
There is no serious question of their relevance
to the issue of insanity; the Court and I do not disagree on that
point. Why would the State not want the jury to have this reliable,
relevant evidence to decide the issue of the appellant's insanity? I
fear that the Court's opinion hints at the answer: The State did not
want the jury to see these photographs because they would have been
powerful evidence that the appellant was abnormal.
Proof of abnormality was a necessary step in his
effort to prove that he was insane and should be confined in a
mental hospital rather than given the lethal injection that the
State desired. I do not intimate any view as to his sanity, or
suggest that the facts would require or even justify a finding of
I do think that his evidence was admissible, that
he should have a trial in which the jury sees it, and that the law
requires that he does.
I would sustain the appellant's first and second
points and remand this case for a new trial.