Murder trial begins for accused rail-riding serial killer

HOUSTON - Lawyers for a drifter accused of being the Texas Railroad Killer acknowledged Monday that he's responsible for nine murders in three states and entered an insanity plea at the start of his trial for one of the slayings.

Angel Maturino Resendiz, 40, faces the death penalty if convicted of the December 1998 murder of Dr. Claudia Benton at her home. She is one of six people he is accused of killing in Texas, two in Illinois and one in Kentucky from 1997 to 1999. The slayings all took place near train tracks.

Maturino Resendiz, a drifter from Mexico, surrendered 23 days after he was added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list last summer.

''When he turned himself in, and when we met him and talked to him, when doctors have talked to him, the defendant has no remorse for any of his crimes,'' defense attorney Allen Tanner told the jury during opening statements. ''The defendant in his mind thinks these people were evil and deserved to die.''

Harris County District Attorney John B. Holmes said, and a police technician later testified, that fingerprints on a jewelry box, a button and pieces of broken plastic from the steering column of Benton's Jeep Cherokee tie Maturino Resendiz to the scene of her murder. DNA and blood evidence tie him to her murder and rape, he said.

Tanner showed the jury copies of letters the accused killer had written from jail in which he complained of micro-organisms, of his treatment in jail and of being an ''angel of God.''

In the two letters, Maturino Resendiz warns of a virus ''100 times faster than ebola and able to transfer by air,'' of sharing information ''like dolphins'' and of how authorities had not lived up to agreements he made before turning himself in.

''I was told at the border I was to get unrestricted visits,'' he wrote. ''That was a false promise; that I could get kosher. I never received kosher.

''The humane treatment I will get will be the death sentence,'' he continued. ''I will go. I will not beg for my life. I was to be sent to a mental hospital but that will not happen. The USA will never, never keep a promise ... ''

''Letters such as those letters and the defendant's feeling that these people needed to be killed show that something is seriously wrong up here,'' Tanner said, pointing to his head.

Maturino Resendiz sat quietly at the defense table. During a pre-trial hearing he said he didn't want the insanity defense and initially refused to talk with a court-appointed psychiatrist, until State District Judge Bill Harmon threatened to limit use of the insanity defense if he continued to resist.

The trial was delayed to give the psychiatrist time to finish a written report on Maturino Resendiz.

Maturino Resendiz has complained that the prospect of lethal injection violates the humane treatment that his family had requested when he gave up after a six-week international manhunt. He surrendered to a Texas Ranger on July 13 at a remote border crossing between Mexico and El Paso.

The first prosecution witnesses were colleagues of Benton at Baylor College of Medicine, where she was a researcher investigating a rare genetic disorder known as Angelman syndrome. She was home alone because her husband and twin daughters were out of town.

Her associates told how they became concerned when she didn't show up for work on Dec. 17, 1998. One of her colleagues, Dr. David Stockton, his voice wavering, told how he arrived at the house as officers ''were just beginning to unroll the yellow crime scene tape.''

Benton's husband, George, testified how he was called by his wife's co-workers worried about her failure to show up. ''I became very worried,'' he said. ''She was very responsible.''

He said he called a friend to check the house, and subsequently received a call from police who ''gave me the news my wife had been murdered in my house.''


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