I married a serial killer

The terrified residents of America's southern states know him as the Railroad Killer. The FBI knows him as the world's most wanted man. But to the woman who lived with him for five years, he'll always be `My Angel'

Ever since the Railroad Killer nudged aside Osama bin Laden as Public Enemy Number One on the FBI's Most Wanted list last month, Americans living near the railway tracks in western and southern states started buying out the local handgun shops. To them, the shriek of a freight train has become a sound of dread. For riding the rails is a homicidal hobo who kills at random, time after time.

His slayings are particularly savage, and his trademark is to pound in his victim's skull with a sledgehammer or heavy rock, cover the head with a blanket, then toy with the body as it dies.

Surveying a recent murder blamed on the Railroad Killer, Police Chief Randy Kennedy from Hughes Springs, Texas shook his head. "He's really, really vicious," said the veteran cop. What's more, the killer does not hurry away into the night, but lingers to raid the refrigerator and rifle through drawers in his victims' homes.

The American authorities suspect that a short Latino man with spectacles has committed at least eight murders - six of them within the past nine weeks. When it came to light that, on 1 June, immigration officers deported a Mexican man fitting the Railroad Killer's description, right down to the tattooed serpent and scars on his left forearm, but simply shooed him to the middle of a bridge over the Rio Grande and waved goodbye, there was fury and disbelief on both sides of the border. But mostly there was fear. An unpredictable serial killer is on the loose, and the trains are running in all directions.

Texas marshals, policemen and agents from the FBI have launched an intensive manhunt which has resulted in more than 2,000 leads from the public. The government put a wanted poster for the fugitive - Rafael Resendez-Ramirez - on the Internet, and listed 30 different aliases for him. From Wyoming to Kentucky, reports came in that Resendez-Ramirez, the infamous Railroad Killer, had been spotted on the run. Hispanics complained about a hate backlash as a result of the publicity. Police halted a freight train in Columbus, Ohio, and searched all 75 cars with sniffer dogs after a panicked housewife glimpsed a Latino man on board.

Meanwhile, in northern Mexico, a switchback road climbs towards Rodeo like a sidewinder through the high scrub mountains north of Durango. It's a dusty small town, over 300 miles from the Texas border, and a notorious black-market centre for cannabis and hot cars. These provide far bigger profits than the local chillies and pinon nuts. Strangers are given a wide berth here and their questions are dodged. Family vendettas are rife and retribution is quick. When the Medina and Renteria families feuded in the early 1990s, 30 people were slain in quick succession: no one else wants to end up shot dead while drinking coffee in the town's cafe - whatever the reason.

Harbouring a mild-mannered serial killer would be easy in Rodeo. Two days after his Most Wanted poster was tacked up in the drugstore, following the visit of two FBI agents to the health clinic where the murder suspect's common-law wife works, it had already been torn down.

A local policeman, Rodolfo Ramirez Ceniceros, recounts how Angel Resendiz, the eccentric part-time English teacher at the town's convent school, was quietly reading the newspaper and eating a taco several weeks ago when he stopped in the middle of both actions. Abruptly, he folded the paper, paid his tab, and just took off. Inside that paper was the first Mexican article about the Railroad Killer. News of the murders had finally reached the suspect's home town, weeks after the frenzy in the States began. But putting the "genuine" name, Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, in bold type above all the other aliases gave extra time for the alleged murderer to slip away. Not until the mugshot photos came out on satellite television did anyone in Rodeo catch on to the fact that the suspected slayer was Angel Resendiz.

Julieta Dominguez Reyes, a lab analyst at Rodeo's public health clinic, hasn't missed a day of work in eight years. But last Saturday she stayed home as she came to terms with the information that her lover and the father of her baby is probably the Railroad Killer. She has dropped nearly a stone in weight and slept very little since Angel Resendiz left home in a hurry on 10 June, after a phone call warning him that police were searching for him in Puebla, his birthplace.

"We've been living together five years and I had no idea about this. He never was violent or sadistic. He was a gentleman in all the small details. He never failed to open the car door for me," she insisted. "But if he did what they are saying, his spirit is rotting and his mind must be disturbed," Julieta said in a quiet voice, holding their baby Liria on her lap. "My Angel refused to turn himself in, or to repent and ask God's blessing. He told me: `It's better to run. I cannot stand prison. They're pursuing me and there's no alternative.' "

Shortly afterwards, two law officers, one American, the other Mexican, came to her tidy white house to haul away a bundle of Angel's clothing, his bike and his guitar for forensic tests. They also gathered pay-cheque stubs, as well as more than 100 pieces of jewellery which they will try to link to victims. When she surrendered these, the enormity of her lover's crimes sunk in, and Julieta felt overwhelmed. "You don't know what is inside a man's head. But we were a very stable couple," she stressed.

They used to live for a month or two together in Rodeo, then Angel would go north illegally, as he had since the age of 16, as a migrant worker in the tobacco fields of Kentucky, or the asparagus fields of Washington. He'd pick oranges in California or harvest rice in Texas. Sometimes he got odd jobs in gas stations, but it was usually in agriculture. According to Julieta, he has a green thumb. Angel sent home $140 (pounds 90) a month, far more than the $6 a week the local nuns paid him for teaching English without a credential. He'd picked up the language on the road, and held forth in conversational English classes at Fray Bartolme de Casas, a convent school opposite the police station.

Border-crossing was not without its benefits either: Resendiz could get $400 a head for shepherding illegal aliens into Texas, and on the way back he'd drive recent model cars and sell them for a profit in Mexico.

Although Angel never seemed keen about trains particularly, Julieta knew he rode them on occasion. "But I never suspected him of keeping secrets," she said. "He told me about one conviction in 1988. Also about some group he joined in the States that was anti-homosexual and anti-abortion."

Julieta is too overwrought to ponder how much their child will take after her father, but wants to keep her husband's dark legacy from affecting their baby. "He loved his daughter almost too much. He kept saying how she was so beautiful." Black-eyed Liria has a shock of black hair and, in some moods, resembles her father's mugshot. "Innocence is redemption," Julieta said, tears welling in her weary eyes. "The baby is the most important thing."

Four-year-old Lupe Abitia Valdez lives across the street from Angel Resendiz's white-painted bungalow. She is shy, but likes to play in the teacher's garden. Together with her eight-year-old sister Alexis, Lupe recently went to her neighbour's house to munch corn chips in the living- room and watch the video that the suspected Railroad Killer Resendez shot at her birthday party on 8 June.

"We have had no problems with our neighbour," said Lupe's father, Salsido Abitia, a primary school principal. "He was so happy when we invited him to the birthday party. He videoed it and he kept the cassette. After reading the newspapers, I was terrified. In all the 55 years that I have lived in Rodeo, I never felt this way." Abitia puts a protective arm around both his daughters.

In spite of the years he has spent living in this small community - even running unsuccessfully for local office back in 1993 - Angel Resendiz is still considered an outsider in Rodeo. He joined his mother and half a dozen half-siblings a few years after they moved from Puebla in 1991. He has two brothers: one a gospel preacher in Chihuahua and the other a customs official at Juarez. A close friend of the family said that his mother, Virginia Resendiz de Maturino, used to pray for a distant son who "wandered about lost", but otherwise never mentioned him. One day, Angel just turned up unannounced.

Law enforcers on both sides of the border want to be ready the next time he appears.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high