He may have been called Angel, but there was nothing angelic about Angel Maturino Resendiz, also known as the Railroad Killer
It was 17 December 1998 and Dr Claudia Benton was home alone. Her husband, George, and her two daughters were visiting relatives.
The 39-year-old paediatric neurologist lived near the rail lines in Houston, Texas.
As Dr Benton slept, a man broke in, raped her and stabbed her 39 times. The killer then beat Dr Benton to death with a 2ft bronze statue, stole cash and fled in her Jeep.
Police found Dr Benton’s body – her head partially enclosed in a plastic bag, her torso covered with blankets.
Fingerprints on her Jeep matched those of Angel Maturino Resendiz, also known as Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, an illegal alien from Mexico, who was suspected of other killings across the county.
Five months on, in May 1999, Pastor Norman Sirnic and his wife, Karen, were found bludgeoned to death in a parsonage in Weimar, Texas. The building was also near a rail line, and fingerprints matched those at Dr Benton’s house.
So by summer 1999, a manhunt was on. On 2 June, the US border patrol stopped Resendiz trying to cross the border illegally. Unaware of who he was, they deported him back to Mexico.
Now the FBI put Resendiz on its Ten Most Wanted list.
Further investigations revealed more unsolved murders, dating back to 1986, with similarities to the Benton and Sirnic killings – all of the crimes had been near railway lines…
With more advanced technology, police matched DNA from the crime scenes to Resendiz. The Mexican-born 39-year-old had a string of convictions for burglary, vehicle theft and aggravated assault and he’d spent time in prison.
Over the years his crimes escalated and he may have killed 15 to 30 people – women, men, straight, gay – as he crisscrossed the US by train, becoming known as the ‘Railroad Killer’.
In July 1999, police persuaded his sister to talk him into surrendering.
But what turned the petty criminal to murder?
Resendiz was born in 1960. His mother is said to have regularly beaten the small, fragile boy. It’s thought he was sexually abused by a relative and by a local paedophile.
Five years later, he ran away and lived on the streets. By 16, he was sniffing glue, most likely as an escape from his life.
It’s believed that he was attacked by youths and hit on the head with a brick. Tests to measure his brain activity prior to trial confirmed frontal-lobe brain damage, which has been linked to delusional beliefs.
At his trial for the doctor’s murder, the defence claimed he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Resendiz also claimed he was half-man, half-angel and couldn’t be killed.
The jury found him guilty. Resendiz was convicted of killing Dr Claudia Benton in December 1998. Though only on trial for the doctor’s murder, he admitted a total of nine killings, during a two-year spree.
Railroad Killer Angel Maturino Resendiz, 45, was sentenced to death by lethal injection.
Before his life was ended, he said: ‘I know I allowed the Devil to rule my life. I deserve what I am getting.’
In June 2006, Resendiz finally met his maker.