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All Aboard the Crime Express: Tracing the Tracks of the Railroad Killer

All Aboard the Crime Express: Tracing the Tracks of the Railroad Killer
photo: David J. Phillip / AFP / Getty Images/Ángel Maturino Reséndiz
11 / 01 / 2024

Welcome back to the “All Aboard the Crime Express” series, where we delve into legendary criminal escapades on the rails. In this second installment, we spotlight Ángel Maturino Reséndiz, known infamously as the Railroad Killer. Starting with illegal entries, his life would later spiral into a series of brutal crimes, marking him as one of the most elusive and feared serial killers in American history. Buckle up for the haunting journey from a shadowy figure to a notorious serial killer that rattled the very foundations of safety alongside America’s vast railroad network back in the late 1980s and ‘90s.

Lawless Early Years

As per the Justice Department report, Ángel Maturino Reséndiz was born on August 1, 1959, in Izucar de Matamoros, Puebla, Mexico, and first raised by his mother till he was seven years old, and then by his grandmother until he moved to Acapulco at the age of 12 to live on his own.

CBS News / Public domain

Despite being known primarily as the Railroad Killer, his criminal record, in fact, takes a long way back to 1973, when he first illegally crossed the border and traveled to Florida at the mere age of 14. He lived there until he got deported in 1976. Reséndiz had an extensive criminal record in the United States between 1976 and 1996 with a long history of convictions for various felonies, including burglary in 1979-80 and 1992, possession of a firearm in 1988 and 1996, and making false statements in 1985-86 and 1998. Justice Department also reports at least three deportations prior to 1996, as well as at least four voluntary returns to Mexico.

The Rise of a Serial Killer

As far as it goes, it’s evident Reséndiz's life has been savage long before it came out of the shadows to the international spotlight, making him one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives at a certain point. With committing crimes as early as the age of 14, his obscure story that would later make headlines and inspire true crime shows began in the late 1980s and 1990s.

His first known murder takes back as far as 1986 in San Antonio, Texas when he shot a homeless woman with a .38-caliber weapon four times. According to the case file, Ángel Maturino Reséndiz said that he killed the woman first after she allegedly disrespected him during a motorcycle trip to the suburban community of Converse, where they planned on firing a gun for target practice.” He later confessed to killing three people in the same area.

A Trail of Terror

Throughout Reséndiz’s killing spree, at least 15 murders across various American states have been linked to his name by the FBI. His modus operandi was as terrifying as it was unique. He used the extensive railroad system to travel and commit a series of murders across the US and Mexico. His method of killing was brutal, often using objects found in his victims’ homes.

Holly Dunn / CBS News / Public domain

Among dozens of of the Railroad Killer’s victims, there’s only one known survivor. Holly Dunn, 20 years old at that time, was going back to the party with her 21-year-old boyfriend Christopher Maier when they were assaulted along the railroad tracks.

A daytime photo of the crime scene where Holly Dunn and Chris Maier were ambushed, showing the electric box where the assailant hid / CBS News / Public domain

While her boyfriend tragically died at the hands of Reséndiz, Holly Dunn miraculously survived after being beaten, raped, stabbed, and left to die. Today, she dedicates herself to helping victims of sexual abuse as she founded a non-residential child and adult advocacy center for victims of intimate crimes, Holly’s House.

Christopher Maier / CBS News / Public domain

The Manhunt

The pursuit of Reséndiz became a significant challenge for law enforcement as his ability to traverse state lines quickly and effectively on trains made him a phantom-like figure, eluding capture repeatedly. Even though the FBI connected various murders through DNA analysis, the Railroad Killer managed to avoid capture by using different aliases. According to his criminal history, over 18 months, the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) detained him nine times, but each time he was returned to Mexico due to a lack of awareness of his true identity and criminal activities. This pattern continued until he was eventually placed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list, as communities along the railroad grew increasingly fearful.

FBI / All That's Interesting / Public domain

Capture and Conviction

Reséndiz was captured in July 1999, a result of a combined effort involving the FBI and his sister who convinced him to turn himself in after being promised her brother’s safety in jail and regular visitation rights for his family. As his trial unfolded, the chilling details of his crimes were revealed and with undeniable evidence, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

A Harris County deputy with Angel Maturino Resendiz at his trial in Houston, May 8, 2000, where he was convicted and sentenced to death / CBS News / Public domain

Shortly after arriving on death row, he told The Associated Press that he didn’t believe in death. “I know the body is going to go to waste,” he said. “But me, as a person, I'm eternal. I'm going to be alive forever.”


His so-called prophecy may or may not have proven to be true. Not only has his story captivated the law enforcement community but also the media. In the summer of 2023, Netflix released the third season of the Catching Killers documentary, the first episode of which examines the Railroad Killer’s crimes and the intricate “dance” between the infamous predator and law enforcement.

Moreover, back in 2017, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of her survival, Holly Dunn released a memoir Sole Survivor: The Inspiring True Story of Coming Face to Face with the Infamous Railroad Killer