Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Steven Egger: Expert on Serial Murder

Angel of Death

Angel Maturino Resendiz
Angel Maturino Resendiz

Before approaching an offender, Egger thoroughly prepares. "I try to know as much about the case as I can ahead of time," he states. "One of the first things that I try to do is verify what I have read in the media. I have frequently found out from what the killers have told me that the media's rendition is not very accurate." In the case of Angel Maturino Resendiz during the late 1990s, the story was almost entirely limited to what the media reported.

On March 23, 1997, in Ocala, Florida, 19-year-old Jesse Howell was bludgeoned to death with an air hose coupling and left near a railroad track. Thirty miles away, his girlfriend was found buried in a shallow grave. She had been raped and strangled. These crimes remained unsolved.

Five months later in Lexington, Kentucky, two more people walking along a track were attacked. Then in 1998 in Hughes Spring, Texas, 81-year-old Leafie Mason was beaten to death with a fire iron, and since she had resided 50 yards from the Kansas City-Southern Rail line, authorities wondered if there was a link among these crimes. Then a female physician, Claudia Benton, was raped, stabbed and bludgeoned in her home in West University Place, Texas, near the tracks, while a middle-aged couple was killed with a sledgehammer in a church parsonage, also near tracks. Of four more victims in Texas killed around the same time, three lived near the railroad.

Dr. Claudia Benton
Dr. Claudia Benton

The "Railway Killer" evaded capture, but when police processed a fingerprint inside one of the victims' stolen vehicles, a fingerprint on the steering column matched Resendiz, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. The police asked his sister for help and Resendiz finally surrendered. He confessed to nine murders, but the police believed he was guilty of at least five more. He went to court with an insanity defense, but was convicted of the murder of Dr. Claudia Benton and sentenced to die by lethal injection. As his execution date approached, his attorneys again argued that Resendiz is insane. They say that he believes he is a man-angel and that the lethal injection will merely put him to sleep.

Egger's experience with interviewing Resendiz affirmed in his mind that psychosis was a viable diagnosis. "He said that he was killing these people because they were either worshipping Satan or performing abortions. I asked him how he knew that and he said he could feel a tingling across the back of his neck when he got near them. But he could have been blowing smoke at me. I didn't know the guy that well and he was willing to talk to anyone. The lawyer did not want me to talk with him but he overruled his lawyer. If he believes what he told me, then I think he is probably psychotic, but I have no way of proving it."

Among the subjects they discussed was Resendiz's early experience. "He talked about a lousy childhood and about being abused in the street. He was kind of adopted on the street by a guy who abused him for two or three years. The difference [in my experience] between Resendiz and Lucas is that I had more time to go back over things with Lucas. I would ask him, for instance, which of the cases — he liked to call them 'his cases' — do you feel badly about now, many years after you committed theses killings? Then I realized what I had done, and I said, 'I understand, Henry, that you feel badly about them all now.' And then I tried to go back and talk to him about how he felt after each killing. And he frequently would talk about the fact that he felt at peace. On the other hand, he talked about the fact that in some of these killings he could see himself committing the crime at the same time the killing or mutilation was happening. So he may have been experiencing a dissociative state."

It's likely that Egger will find a way to talk with more of these killers, especially those who hope to be featured in a book, because Egger is among the top-selling criminologists on serial murder.


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