Appeals Running Out for Condemned 'Railroad Killer'

Condemned murderer Angel Maturino Resendiz — the infamous "Railroad Killer" — moved a step closer to his scheduled execution Tuesday night after Texas prison officials and a federal judge refused to grant a stay.

Resendiz's lawyers pinned their final hope with appeals filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, including a petition from Mexico seeking to halt the execution. Mexico's petition questioned whether Resendiz — a Mexican national — was competent and challenged the constitutionality of the lethal injection process.

The husband of one of Resendiz's victims called Mexico's petition "shameful."

"I just think, particularly at this time, for the citizens of Mexico, they should be outraged and ashamed their government is championing the cause of this killer and spending their national resources on his appeals, hiring even a special attorney," George Benton said.

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Benton's wife, Dr. Claudia Benton, 39, a physician, was among eight killings in Texas linked to Resendiz. Two more were tied to him in both Illinois and Florida, along with one each in Kentucky, California and Georgia.

Angel Maturino Resendiz, 46, was set to die by injection for raping and murdering a physician during the 1998-99 killing spree that spread terror across the Southwest and put him on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

George Benton no longer lives in the state but said he planned to witness Resendiz's lethal injection.

"The main reason I came to Texas for this is to make the statement that people have to understand what evil really is," he said. "And the death penalty, this sort of conclusion to heinous killers, is the appropriate solution."

The Houston Chronicle, meanwhile, reported that Resendiz told prison officials that he wanted his body donated to science. Then he changed his mind, saying he wanted his mother to claim his remains, the report said.

The Chronicle also reported that Resendiz told authorities he plans to go do his death without a final meal.

Lead appeals lawyer Jack Zimmermann filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing Resendiz, who described himself as half-man and half-angel, couldn't be executed because he didn't believe he ever could die.

"The average reader is going to say: What difference does it make if the guy's a bad guy," Zimmermann said. "The difference is we're a nation of laws and we don't to that in the United States. We don't execute people who are insane, we don't execute people who don't realize they're going to be executed and it's going to happen soon and why."

Resendiz's first encounter with American law enforcement took place 30 years ago, when he was 16, when he was arrested for an immigration violation in Brownsville. In 1980, he was convicted of burglary in Dade County, Fla., where he called himself Jose Reyes. Paroled five years later, he subsequently was locked up in New Mexico for using an alias to get a passport, then served time again in New Mexico for burglary before he was paroled in 1993. He had other arrests in Louisiana, Missouri and California.

The Border Patrol had picked up Resendiz for illegal entry in early June 1999 near El Paso and released him back into Mexico, saying they were unaware he was on the FBI's Most Wanted list. He committed four slayings after his release.

A month later, Resendiz walked across the international bridge at El Paso from Mexico and surrendered to a Texas Ranger as part of a deal arranged by his sister in New Mexico.

The sister, Manuela Karkiewicz, was among six people Resendiz selected to watch him die.

In the weeks before his surrender, Resendiz gained his "Railroad Killer" nickname as authorities hunting for him determined the serial killer used freight trains to move quickly and efficiently around the country. Many of his crimes were near railroad tracks.

Benton, who was stabbed with a knife and beaten 19 times with a bronze statue, lived down the street from a railroad track in the Houston enclave of West University. Sirnic and his wife, both killed with a sledgehammer as they slept, lived directly across the street from a railroad track that runs through the heart of their small town about 100 miles west of Houston. The women in both slayings were raped.

Besides his sister, Resendiz also designated as execution witnesses his mother, two brothers and Nancy Beall Resendiz, a Cleveland, Ohio, woman who says she is his wife. Prison officials have her listed as a friend. A Harris County Jail chaplain also will be allowed in as his designated spiritual adviser.

He said some murders were in response to the deaths of the Branch Davidians in Waco, others on Serbian atrocities. Others he blamed on his anti-abortion beliefs or because he believed the victims may have been homosexual.

"I tried to figure this guy out — the type of killer who would choose people at random, lie in wait and watch their houses until it's dark and then kill them with something of convenience from their own house," George Benton said. "It's beyond my comprehension. I can't really consider the depths of that human behavior."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.