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Coroner Testifies in Rail Killer Case

May 9, 2000 GMT

HOUSTON (AP) _ A coroner was called to the witness stand today as prosecutors built their case against a man suspected of killing nine people in three states as he crisscrossed the nation by freight train.

Angel Maturino Resendiz’s attorneys opened his capital murder trial on Monday by admitting their client was responsible for the death of Dr. Claudia Benton and eight others but saying he should be found innocent by reason of insanity.

Resendiz, 40, is on trial for Benton’s slaying only. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Today, prosecutors questioned Harris County Medical Examiner Dr. Joye Carter about how she recovered Benton’s body from the suburban Houston home and the autopsy she later performed.

Benton died from stab wounds and blunt trauma, and there was evidence she had been sexually assaulted, Carter said. Crime scene photographs of Benton’s bedroom showed a bloody butcher knife on the floor near her body.

``There were three stab wounds from the back that went through to the front of″ Benton’s body, Carter said. She said those stabs were so forceful, they broke several of Benton’s ribs and collapsed her lungs. Her body was bruised and two bones in her right forearm were also broken, apparently while fighting off her attacker, Carter said.

Carter identified in a photograph a bloody statuette found at the scene as the blunt object which likely was used to smash Benton in the head 19 times, repeatedly fracturing the skull.

Other witnesses expected to testify today included Texas Ranger Drew Carter, who helped persuade Maturino Resendiz to surrender last summer.

Authorities say the Mexican citizen killed five other people in Texas, two in Illinois and one in Kentucky from 1997 to 1999.

During testimony Monday, George Benton recalled his fear when his wife’s co-workers called him in Arizona, where he was visiting family with the couple’s twin daughters, and said they could not contact her.

``We had two telephone lines into the house and a pager, so I was pretty alarmed,″ Benton said.

That pager was later shown in the crime scene photographs, lying outside the bedroom where Benton was killed.

Fingerprints on a jewelry box, a button and on pieces of broken plastic from the steering column of Benton’s sport utility vehicle tie Maturino Resendiz to the crime scene, and DNA and blood evidence tie him to the slaying, prosecutor John Holmes Jr. said.

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Maturino Resendiz’s attorneys, Allen Tanner and Rudy Duarte, said little after Tanner’s opening statement in which he told jurors he intended to show them that his client was insane at the time of the killings.

``The defendant has no remorse for any of his crimes,″ Turner said. ``The defendant in his mind thinks these people were evil and deserved to die.″