Saturday, July 8, 2006

Few cases better illustrate the danger to public safety posed by illegal-alien criminals than that of Angel Maturino Resendiz, a serial killer executed June 27 in Huntsville, Texas, for the December 1998 murder of Claudia Benton, a Houston-area physician. Mrs. Benton died during a murder spree which took place in 1998 and 1999 and earned Resendiz a position on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, as he repeatedly slipped across the U.S.-Mexico border and traveled across the United States by train and committed murders near railroad lines. At least 13 people (eight of them in Texas) were thought to be murder victims of Resendiz.

Numerous reports (the most comprehensive of which was a March 2000 study by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, or OIG) have documented how, despite an extensive criminal history, Resendiz had little difficulty entering and exiting the United States. Between August 1976, when Resendiz, then 17, was arrested for attempting to illegally enter this country, and July 13, 1999, when he surrendered to authorities to face murder charges, he benefited from America’s revolving-door criminal-justice system and lax border enforcement. Time and again, he entered the United States illegally; committed crimes after entering the country, was tried, convicted and imprisoned for his crimes; and was granted early release from prison on condition that he agree to be “voluntarily returned” to Mexico. Once back in Mexico, Resendiz again re-entered the United States, beginning the cycle anew.

In 1977, Resendiz was convicted in Mississippi for destroying private property; in 1980, he was convicted in Florida for burglary, aggravated assault and grand theft auto; in 1986, he was convicted in Texas for making a false representation of U.S. citizenship. The criminal convictions kept coming: in 1989 in Missouri for falsely representing himself as a U.S. citizen; being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and re-entry after deportation; in 1992 in New Mexico for burglary; in 1993 in Texas for evading arrest; in 1995 in California for trespassing; and in 1996 in Kentucky for trespassing.

Resendiz’s crime wave was aided by the inefficiency of public-sector bureaucracies and the desire of law-enforcement authorities to reduce prison populations by deporting perpetrators of “minor” crimes, including immigration violations.

“Resendez [the multiple spellings of his name in public documents doubtless helped him avoid capture] was also arrested for additional offenses. In some instances, these charges were not pursued because of more serious offenses in other jurisdictions; in other instances, we simply could not determine the outcome of the charges based on the available records. Significantly, in 1994, Resendez was arrested by the Albuquerque, New Mexico, police for driving a stolen vehicle and released on bond. He was later indicted for this offense. When he did not appear to face the charges, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest… The warrant remained outstanding until after Resendez’s surrender on July 13, 1999,” the OIG reported. “For several of his convictions, Resendez received significant prison sentences. Typically, he did not serve the full sentence before being released from prison and voluntarily returned or deported to Mexico by the INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service]. The available records indicate that before 1998 the INS voluntarily returned Resendez to Mexico at least four times and formally deported him at least three other times. The records are not clear whether he was returned to Mexico on several occasions after he was released from prison. However, it is clear that after each return from Mexico, he re-entered the United States illegally and continued his criminal activities.”

In 1998, Resendiz was apprehended seven times by Border Patrol agents in Texas and New Mexico while attempting to enter the United States illegally; in each case, the agents, unaware that he was a fugitive, returned him to Mexico. On Dec. 16, 1998, 43 days after Resendiz’s seventh apprehension, he murdered Dr. Benton at her home — the crime he was executed for last month. Adding insult to injury, on June 1, 1999, Resendiz was again detained by the INS before being sent to Mexico; several additional murders in this country that he is believed to have committed (but was never tried for) occurred after Resendiz was released that time by the INS.

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