How Authorities Tracked Down a Serial Killer: He Road the Rails Killing People

He lived on trains — hopping on and off while killing people across the country

Published Time: 12.05.2024 - 17:31:14 Modified Time: 12.05.2024 - 17:31:14

He lived on trains — hopping on and off while killing people across the country.

The drifter passed through prisons in Florida and New Mexico, per his online criminal information, but authorities did not even know the serial killer’s name.

Fugitive posters called for the arrest of Rafael Resendiz-Ramirez, and his sister eventually coordinated that man’s surrender in exchange for his psychiatric evaluation and an $86,000 reward, The Los Angeles Times then reported.

But when the killer finally walked into a Texas court in 1999 on a murder charge, he told authorities they had it wrong: his real name, he said, was Ángel Maturino Reséndiz.

A new episode of People Magazine Investigates: Surviving the Railroad Killer – premiering Sunday, May 12 at 9/8 C on ID and streaming on Max – takes viewers on the journey as authorities tracked down a man who for years evaded capture, hiding behind multiple aliases and disguises. (An exclusive clip is shown below.)

Maturino Reséndiz, of Durango, Mexico, entered the United States in 1976. A migrant farm worker, he kept a low profile, altering his appearance with glasses and a mustache (or the absence thereof). He did not own a car,  phone or credit card, making it more difficult for law enforcement to connect a rash of cross-country killings.

In August 1997, he crushed the skull of college student, Christopher Maier, near Kentucky railroad tracks, per court documented testimony.

In October 1998, he fatally struck Leafie Mason, 87, with an iron inside her Hughes Springs, Texas,  home.

And in June 1999 he gunned down George Morber, 80, inside his Gorham, Ill. home, then sexually assaulted the victim's daughter, Carolyn Frederick, fatally striking her “in the head with the shotgun with such force that the shotgun broke into two pieces,” according to court documents.

“It became a manhunt,” Detective James Curless, now retired from the -

Lexington Police Department, says of the killings which were typically near rail lines. “Trying to track a transient person is a lot more difficult than someone who's living and staying in one location.” 

Ultimately, Maturino Reséndiz admitted to killing nine people in two years. DNA evidence tied him to more bodies. 

But he was only convicted of the 1998 killing of Houston physician Claudia Benton, whom he beat to death with her own statuette.

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In opening statements at that trial in 2000, Maturino Reséndiz’s defense lawyers claimed the 40-year-old should be found not guilty by reason of insanity, CBS News then reported.

A psychiatrist testifying for the defense said Maturino Reséndiz was a paranoid schizophrenic who believed himself to be an angel avenging God by killing people he believed were evil, like those he thought were gay and people who performed abortions.

“He was not motivated by the will of God,” prosecutor Lyn McClellan told the jury, per CBS News. “He was motivated by anger, by power, by the desire for sex, by the desire for control and domination.”

Before his sentencing, Maier’s girlfriend, Holly K. Dunn – who had witnessed his railroad killing and who herself had been stabbed, raped and left to die – testified as the only known survivor of the so-called Railroad Killer.

The Houston Chronicle covered the killer's 2006 execution.

“I deserve what I am getting,” Maturino Reséndiz said.

People Magazine Investigates: Surviving the Railroad Killer premieres Sunday, May 12 at 9/8 C on People Magazine Investigates: Surviving a Serial Killer on ID and streams on Max.

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