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The Railway Killer: The Victims of Angel Maturino Resendiz


On June 15th, 1999, the small town of Gorham, Illinois was rocked by the murders of seventy-nine-year-old George Morber and his fifty-one-year-old daughter Carolyn Frederick inside George Morber’s mobile home. George had been shot in the head with a shot gun. Caroyln had been repeatedly beat with the same shot gun used to kill her father. She had been beat so severely that the shot gun broke in half during the assault. After her death, she was sexually assaulted by the killer. The heinous crime struck fear in Southern Illinois residents and would soon be connected to several other murders across the United States. This is the story of the The Railway Killer: The Victims of Angel Maturino Resendiz.

Angel Maturino Resendiz was born August 1st, 1960, in Mexico. Angel was one of several siblings, some full and some half. His father was reported to be very abusive to his mother, whom he never married. When Angel was seven years old, his mother married a man who presumably didn’t want Angel around. She sent him to live with his uncle, Rafael Resendez-Ramirez. In the future, Angel would use this name as an alias. It is suspected that while living with his uncle, Angel was sexually abused by a known pedophile. The abuse he endured at his uncle’s home contributed to his decision to run away at age eleven.

From the age of eleven, Resendiz lived on the streets. He joined a group of older boys living on the streets in Pueblo, Mexico, who committed petty crimes to support themselves. During this time, he was sexually abused on multiple occasions. As a young teenager, Resendiz decided to cross the border into Texas. On August 31st, 1976, Angel entered the United States into Brownsville, Texas. He was caught by border patrol, to which he provided the name Rafael Resendiz-Ramirez. He was entered into the FBI records under that alias.

Over the next several years, Angel would continually cross the border back into the United States. He would then commit crimes that included assaults, robberies, and auto thefts. He would frequently steal vehicles and drive them back across the border to Mexico and sell them. He was caught several times, arrested, and deported back to Mexico. He used several aliases during his multiple arrests. He was sent to prison in Florida for a burglary and assault but was later paroled and again deported. Over the next several years, Angel would be arrested and served sentences for various crimes in the United States. Upon release, he would once again be deported back to Mexico only to cross the border again within weeks or months.

Once in the United States, Angel found that utilizing the railroad system provided a method to travel quickly and cheaply to different areas of the United States. He is known to have been a transient with trips to Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas. He found victims of convenience, most of which lived near the railroad tracks in which he traveled. Angel was of small stature, so he typically chose victims who also had small stature and could not over power him. At first, his crimes were primarily theft and burglaries. He would soon escalate.

On August 27th, 1997, twenty-one-year-old Christopher Maier and his twenty-three-year-old girlfriend Holly Dunn were walking from a party on the campus of University of Kentucky in Lexington. They were walking along the railroad tracks when Angel, who was hiding, approached the couple. He asked for money, but Chris and Holly explained that they didn’t have any. Angel rummaged through Christopher’s backpack, but found nothing of value. He ordered them to sit down on the tracks, where he tired them up. He then bludgeoned Chris in the head repeatedly with a large heavy rock.

Once Angel knew Christopher was dead, he turned to Holly. He had a knife, threatening Holly as she tried to struggle with her attacker. He raped Holly, who studied his face for every detail throughout the attack. Once he was finished raping her, he beat her in the head with a rock. Holly fell unconscious, at which time Angel presumably believed she was dead. He covered her body in twigs and jumped aboard the next train that passed through.

Holly eventually regained consciousness and went to a nearby house for help. Holly had a broken eye socket and jaw in addition to multiple bruises, cuts, and trauma from her sexual assault. She survived the attack, only to learn that Christopher was dead. Since she had taken the time to study her attacker’s face, she was able to provide a description to a sketch artist. DNA evidence was also collected from the sexual assault kit. Despite this evidence, no suspects were identified. Since Angel was a transient with no ties to the Lexington area, the sketch was not recognized.



Christopher Thomas Maier was born June 6th, 1976. Chris was born in South Africa and raised by his parents in Canton, Ohio. He graduated from Western Reserve Academy in 1995 and was attending the University of Kentucky. He was survived by his parents, sister, and Holly. The city of Lexington was perplexed by the crime, attributing the death to a random attack of violence.

Meanwhile, Angel returned home to Rodeo, Mexico where he lived with his partner Julieta Dominguez Reyes. Angel had previously worked as an English teacher in Mexico and was thought to be an upstanding citizen. He had a baby with Julieta, who believed him to be “a gentleman in all the small details” (McGirk, 1999). He would return to Mexico to be with his family before leaving again and again for the United States. Julieta believed he was working as a migrant farm worker in the United States. She had no clue about his criminal and sadistic behavior.

Eighty-seven-year-old Leafie Mason was attacked in her home in Hughes Springs, Texas on October 2nd, 1998. She was struck repeatedly by her own antique iron in the head and left to die in a puddle of her own blood. She was covered with a blanket after she was killed. The murderer then stayed in her house, rummaged through her belongings, and ate food. Leafie was born August 15th, 1911, in Texas. She was the caregiver to her disabled sister, who resided in a nursing facility at the time of her death. Her murder would later be tied to the railway killer through forensic evidence and the proximity of her home to the railroad tracks.

Dr. Claudia Benton, a thirty-nine-year-old pediatric geneticist at Baylor University in Texas, was home alone on the night of December 17th, 1998. Her husband and twin daughters were out of town visiting family for the holidays. Due to her work schedule, Claudia was unable to make the trip with her family. That night, Angel broke into her home in West University Place, Texas, which was nearby the railroad tracks. He violently raped Claudia before stabbing her repeatedly and bludgeoning her. Following the murder, Angel relaxed inside her home, rummaged through her personal items, and ate food. He left the bloody knife lying beside her body. He stole her vehicle, which was later found abandoned several miles away near a railroad track. Fingerprint evidence and DNA linked the crime to known illegal immigrant Rafael Resendiz-Ramirez, Angel’s alias. The manhunt began for Angel, whose real name was not known to authorities.

On May 2nd, 1999, parishioners of the Wiemar United Church of Christ in Weimar, Texas grew concerned when the reverend and his wife failed to show up for Sunday services. The parishioners went to the parsonage where the couple resided. The couple, Norman and Karen Sirnic, were found dead inside. They had been attacked by a sledgehammer stolen from their own garage. Their home was nearby railroad tracks, which linked the crime to Claudia Benton’s murder. Additional forensic evidence also linked the man known as Rafael Resendiz-Ramirez. Angel had rummaged through their belongings and ate from their kitchen. Their truck was stolen, found months later near San Antonio by some railroad tracks.

Reverend Norman Jerome “Skip” Sirnic was born May 2nd, 1952, in Pennsylvania. In 1970, he graduated from Friona High School as the class valedictorian. He married Karen and they had a son. Karen was born September 13th, 1951, in Bryan, Texas. The couple had been living in Weimar for at least ten years where Skip was the reverend of the church and Karen worked as the church secretary.

Once the murders of Claudia Benton and Skip and Karen Sirnic were connected, communities in Texas were on high alert. Firearms stores literally sold out of guns as Texans armed themselves for protection. Rafael Resendiz-Ramirez was listed by the FBI as a wanted man. He was even listed on the FBI’s top ten most wanted along side Osama Bin Laden. Despite this, border patrol agents failed to properly background check Angel when he was caught near the border going back to Mexico. They later said it was a “glitch”, but it seems they failed to follow proper procedures that would have identified Angel as the man on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list for multiple murders. They border patrol agents allowed him to freely return to Mexico.



Soon after going back to Mexico, Angel once again crossed the border into the United States. On June 4th, 1999, Josephine Konvicka was found dead in her home, which was less than three miles from the Sirnic’s home. The seventy-three-year-old had been attacked while laying her bed with a pickax. The home was then ransacked, and once again Angel has taken his time to eat from Josephine’s kitchen and take souvenirs.

Josephine Konvicka was born March 1st, 1926, in Dubina, Texas. She married George Konvicka in 1947, and he proceeded her in death in 1986. Josephine loved baking, spending time with her children and grandchildren, gardening, and being outside.

The day after killing Josephine, Angel broke into the home of Noemi Dominguez in Houston, Texas. He sexually assaulted the twenty-six-year-old schoolteacher before using the same pickax from the Josephine Konvicka murder to bludgeon her in the head. Her vehicle was stolen and was later found in Del Rio, Texas, near the International Bridge leading into Mexico. Fingerprints at the crime scene linked the murder to Resendiz. Blood on the pickax belonged to both Noemi and Josephine, conclusively linking the crimes.

Ten days later, June 15th, 1999, seventy-nine-year-old George Morber left his mobile home in Gorham, Illinois to get a newspaper. Nearby, Angel was lurking, looking for his next victim. He entered the home of Morber and began to look for items to steal. Morber, whose wife was in the hospital with major health concerns, returned shortly after. It is possible he surprised Angel. Angel used a phone cord to tie the elderly man up in a chair. He then used a shotgun to shoot George, killing him instantly. Once George was dead, he proceeded to eat from the kitchen and look for items to take.

What Angel was not aware of was George’s daughter, fifty-one-year-old Carolyn Frederick, was coming to check on her father. Angel attacked her with the shot gun, bludgeoning her in the head multiple times. He beat her so much that the gun broke in half. He continued to beat her with other objects found in the home before sexually assaulting her. Their bodies were found later by Carolyn’s husband. DNA evidence, hairs, and fingerprints positively linked the murders to the Railway Killer.

George Albert “Corky” Morber was born November 8th, 1919, in Jackson County, Illinois. He married Essie David March 11th, 1941. He was the father of seven children, eighteen grandchildren, and fourteen great grandchildren. He served as a United States Army Corporal during World War II, earning a Purple Heart. He retired as a lieutenant from Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois. Carolyn Sue was born to George and Essie on March 6th, 1948. She married Donald Frederick in 1973. She was the mother of three children and a grandmother.

Angel found himself in a precarious situation. He was wanted by the FBI in the United States and bounty hunters in Mexico were searching for him. If he stayed in Mexico, he would likely be killed. Some resources also state he was being suspected of murders in Mexico as well. Julieta was now aware that her sweetheart was a serial killer. She said “My Angel refused to turn himself in or repent and ask God’s blessing. He told me ‘It’s better to run. I cannot stand prison. Their pursuing me and there’s no alternative’” (McGirk, 1999).

Angel’s sister feared for her brother’s safety and convinced him to negotiate a peaceful surrender with the FBI. He asked to be treated humanely if he surrendered. Had he surrendered to Mexican authorities, the death penalty would have likely been eliminated as a condition to extradition. Angel failed to secure a promise of avoiding the death penalty in his negotiation to surrender with the FBI, however. On July 12th, 1999, Angel Maturino Resendiz peacefully surrendered on the bridge connecting El Paso to Mexico in Texas.

After being taken into custody, the family of Resendiz claimed they were lied to by authorities when Texas announced they would seek the death penalty for the murder of Dr. Claudia Benton. They were under the impression that asking to be treated humanely meant he would not face capital punishment. Resendiz was charged with Claudia’s murder in Texas as well as three other murders, including the murders of Morber and Frederick in Southern Illinois. He only went to trial for the murder of Claudia Benton, however.



Angel plead not guilty by reason of insanity. His identify was now known along with his several aliases used over the past three decades. The thirty-nine-year-old serial killer claimed to be part angel and part demon. He claimed he only killed people because he sensed a strong aura of evil. A former prison cellmate testified that Angel often used the prison library during his previous incarceration to research an insanity defense. The prosecution also pointed out that the “evil” he killed included a doctor, pastor, teacher, and multiple elderly persons. He was found guilty of Claudia Benton’s murder and sentenced to death.

After his arrest, Resendiz admitted to other murders. He claimed his first murder was in 1986. He said he was traveling with a woman whose name he did not know. The woman disrespected him, so he shot her and left her body in an abandoned farm house in Bexar County, Texas. The remains of Jane Doe were indeed found in the farmhouse on March 23rd, 1986. His second murder was this woman’s boyfriend, whom he said he killed because the man practiced black magic. Angel then confessed to killing Michael White in San Antonio, Texas in 1991. He bludgeoned the twenty-one-year-old with a brick because he believed Michael to be a homosexual. He drew a map of the crime scene, positively linking him to the murder.


Angel also confessed to the murders of Jesse Howell and Wendy Von Huben on March 23rd, 1997, in Ocala, Florida. This murder was just months before he killed Christopher Maier and attacked Holly Dunn in Kentucky. Jesse was nineteen years old and was bludgeoned with an air hose coupling. Wendy Von Huben, Jesse’s girlfriend, was raped, strangled, and bound with duct tape over her nose and mouth. He disposed of her body, which remained missing for a long time until Angel gave them the location of her remains. Wendy and Jesse had runaway together from Woodstock, Illinois to be together. As they walked along the railroad tracks in Florida, they became the victims of a serial killer.

Angel waived most of his appeals, wishing to be executed instead of being in prison. Angel declined a last meal. His final words before execution were “I want to ask if it is in your heart to forgive me and ask the Lord to forgive me for allowing the devil to deceive me. I thank God for having patience in me. I don’t deserve to cause you pain. You do not deserve this. I deserve what I am getting” (Wikipedia). Angel was executed by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 8:05 pm on June17th, 2006, in Texas. Families of several victims attended the execution.

The family of George Morber and Carolyn Frederick sued the United States government for failure to detain Angel at the border just weeks before he murdered the father and daughter. Claudia Benton’s husband sued Resendiz prior to his execution in order to stop Angel from profiting from his crimes. While in prison, Angel sold chunks of his hair, letters, and other items to obsessive “fans”. The forty-nine million dollar judgement won by Mr. Benton put a stop to any profiting from the horrendous crimes committed by the Railway Killer.

Holly Dunn, the sole survivor of the Railway Killer, wrote a book about her experience entitled “Soul Survivor”. She also co-founded Holly’s House, a child and adult advocacy center for victims of intimate crimes. She tells her story to promote safety and awareness. If there is a light at the end of this dark story, it is Holly Dunn. She turned a horrific and traumatic experience into a story of survival and success.

References

Obituary (1997) Christopher T. Maier. The Akron Beacon Journal. 31 Aug 1997

Bennet, B. (1997) Suspect’s sketch drawn in killing, rape of students. Lexington Herald-Leader. 11 Sep 1997

Resendiz V. State (2003)

Beaumont, T. (1999). Officials: talks on Resendez should pay off. Southern Illinoisian. 8 Aug 1999

Binder, S. & Goldstein, R. (2000). Jury still out on whether to try Resendiz here. Southern Illinoisan. 19 May 2000

Binder, S. (1999). Fingerprints are a match. Southern Illinoisan. 22 Jun 1999

The Associated Press. (1999) Suspected serial killer charged in Illinois killings. Journal Gazette. 22 Jun 1999

The Associated Press. (2000). Railroad killer sentenced to death in Texas. The Dispatch. 23 May 2000

Beaumont, T. (1999). Most Wanted Rafael Resendez-Ramierez. The Southern Illinoisan. 27 Jun 1999

The Associated Press. (2006). Railroad killer is executed in Texas. Chicago Tribune. 28 June 2006

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