The man accused of being the railroad killer was linked to a ninth slaying and charged with capital murder today, hours after he asked a judge, "Can all this be done very quickly so I can say I'm guilty?"
Shortly after Angel Maturino Resendez made his request during a court appearance on a burglary charge in Houston, authorities said they had linked him by a palm print to a ninth slaying--that of an 87-year-old woman who was bludgeoned in her home with an antique iron last October.
Leafie Mason, who lived within 50 yards of a rail line that cuts through the small East Texas town of Hughes Springs, was attacked by someone who entered her home through a window. Her body was covered by a blanket, as were several other victims believed to have been killed by Maturino Resendez.
Maturino Resendez was charged with her murder today and could face the death penalty. Texas has executed 180 people--by far the most in the nation--since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976.
The 39-year-old rail-hopping drifter, who turned himself in Tuesday after a six-week manhunt that made him one of the most wanted fugitives in America, is also charged with two slayings in Illinois and one in Kentucky and is believed responsible for five other killings in Texas.
During the manhunt, the FBI referred to him by one of his aliases, Rafael Resendez-Ramirez.
Until the murder charge was filed in Hughes Springs, the only charge against him in Texas was burglary, at the scene where Claudia Benton, 39, was killed Dec. 17 in the Houston enclave of West University Place. She was beaten in the head, stabbed three times in the back and covered with a blanket.
After a prosecutor in Houston described the bloody scene of Benton's killing, Maturino Resendez, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffs, calmly asked state District Judge William Harmon if he could plead guilty.
It was unclear whether Maturino Resendez was specifically addressing the burglary charge or all of the charges against him. His admission of guilt was not an official plea because his court appearances were only to set bail and assign him a lawyer. He was jailed without bail.
The decision of whether also to charge Maturino Resendez with capital murder in Benton's death rests District Attorney Johnny Holmes in Harris County, which has notched the most death penalty convictions in Texas.
After hiding out in Mexico, Maturino Resendez surrendered to a Texas Ranger at an El Paso border station Tuesday in a deal brokered by his sister.
Maturino Resendez is thought to have traveled by hopping freight trains. His alleged killing rampage apparently started with the 1997 slaying of a 21-year-old college student in Kentucky. The most recent slayings were those of a 79-year-old man and his 51-year-old daughter, found dead June 15 in Gorham, Ill.
But Texas's hold on Maturino Resendez might mean Kentucky and Illinois officials never get to prosecute him. Lexington, Ky., police Sgt. Mark Barnard said he hopes that is not the case.
"I don't care if he gets the death penalty seven times," Barnard said. "I want him in Kentucky."
CAPTION: Angel Maturino Resendez, being led into the Harris County Courthouse, was charged with capital murder in the death of an 87-year-old Texas woman.
CAPTION: Manuela Maturino Resendez, the suspect's sister, arranged her brother's surrender.