HOUSTON – By definition, serial murder involves a single offender who kills at least two victims in separate events at different times, according to the FBI.
Serial murders are very rare. They’re estimated to comprise less than one percent of all murders committed in any given year, according to the FBI. Yet, several prolific murderers have walked among us here in Houston.
Here’s a look at some of the most notorious serial killers that have terrorized the city.
The Railway Killer
Dubbed “The Railroad (or Railway) Killer” because most of his victims were found near railroad tracks, Angel Maturino Resendiz, a Mexican drifter and serial killer who crisscrossed the country by freight train, sowed fear in communities near railroad tracks throughout Texas during the 1990s. Investigators linked Resendiz to at least 15 murders committed in Texas and elsewhere. His killing spree during the late 1990s earned him a spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
The confessed serial killer was ultimately executed for the December 16, 1998, robbery, rape, and murder of Houston doctor Claudia Benton. Benton had been stabbed with a kitchen knife, bludgeoned with a 2-foot bronze statue and raped in her West University Place home, which was located near railroad tracks, according to the Associated Press.
During the investigation into Benton’s killing, authorities surmised they were pursuing a serial killer when DNA evidence tied Resendiz to Benton’s murder and the subsequent killings of church pastor Norman J. Sirnic and his wife Karen Sirnic, who were beaten to death with a sledgehammer in their Weimar house. Karen Sirnic had been sexually assaulted, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Through DNA evidence, Resendez was also connected to a murder that had occurred on August 29, 1997, in Lexington, Kentucky, when a man had been beaten to death while walking with a woman who was raped but survived the attack, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In June 1999, the FBI formed a multi-agency task force to apprehend him and on June, 21, 1999, the FBI placed Resendiz on its list of the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.”
During June 1999, as the FBI was ramping up its search for Resendiz, he allegedly murdered four more people, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
On July 13, 1999, at an international bridge in El Paso, Resendiz surrendered to police as part of a deal arranged by his sister, ending a nationwide manhunt. On May 18, 2000, Resendiz was convicted of murder and on May 22, 2000, the trial court sentenced him to death, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The State of Texas executed Resendiz by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville on June, 27, 2006. Before his death, he addressed the relatives of his victims who were in attendance, saying “I want to ask if it is in your heart to forgive me. You don’t have to. I know I allowed the devil to rule my life. I just ask you to forgive me and ask the Lord to forgive me for allowing the devil to deceive me,” according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He thanked God and continued, “I don’t deserve to cause you pain. You did not deserve this.” His final words were, “I deserve what I am getting.”
Benton’s husband, George, witnessed Resendiz’s execution.
“What was executed today may have looked like a man, walked and talked like a man but what was contained inside that skin was not a human being,” he told the Associated Press. “This is not human behavior but something I can only say is evil contained in human form, a creature without a soul, no conscience, no sense of remorse, no regard for the sanctity of human life.”
The Candy Man
This is Dean Corll. He was a serial killer who abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered at least 28 teenage boys and young men between 1970 and 1973 in Houston, Texas. Corll was aided by two teenaged accomplices, David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley. Once captured, his victims were then stripped naked and tied to either Corll’s bed or, usually, a plywood torture board, which was regularly hung on a wall. Once manacled, the victims would be sexually assaulted, beaten, tortured and—sometimes after several days—killed by strangulation or shooting with a .22-caliber pistol. In several instances, Corll forced his victims to either phone or write to their parents with explanations for their absences in an effort to allay the parents’ fears for their sons’ safety. He never got to face the punishment he deserved as he was shot dead by one of his teenage accomplices when he tried to rape and kill his friends.
Between 1970 and 1973, Dean Corll, one of the country’s most prolific serial killers, murdered at least 28 teenage boys in Houston. The killings were dubbed the Houston Mass Murders, and at the time, they were considered the worst serial murders in U.S. history.
Corll, an electrician and former candy store owner (hence the moniker), conscripted the help of teens David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley to lure other teen boys to his apartment, where they were handcuffed and shackled to a plywood torture board before being sexually assaulted and killed, according to the Associated Press.
Corll’s killing spree ended in August 1973 when Henley, one of his accomplices, shot and killed him in self-defense.
It was then that Henley confessed to police all that he knew and led police to the graves of the dead. Jack Cato, a reporter for KPRC 2, accompanied Henley and police as Henley led them to a shed where he and Corll had buried some of the murder victims. Cato allowed Henley to call his mother on his telephone and captured the conversation on film. Henley is heard saying the words, “Mama, I killed Dean” into the receiver.
Corll’s known victims were found in mass graves located across the Greater Houston Area. Four bodies were buried in St. Augustine near Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas; seven were buried on the beach at High Island in Southeast Texas; and 17 were buried in a Houston boathouse of Corll’s, according to the Associated Press.
Some had cords wrapped around their necks, and tape strapped around their feet and mouths and a few had been sexually mutilated, according to the Associated Press. Most of the bodies were badly decomposed and difficult to identify.
Henley and Brooks were both convicted for their roles in the Houston Mass Murders. Henley is serving six consecutive life sentences. Brooks died in a Galveston prison hospital in May 2020 due to complications related to COVID-19, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
The Tourniquet Killer
Anthony Shore was a confessed serial killer who raped and strangled his victims in the 1980s and 1990s. Shore was dubbed “The Tourniquet Killer” because he used homemade tourniquets to strangle his victims.
KPRC 2 has an unsettling connection to Shore’s slayings. In July of 1995, Shore called KPRC 2 to report the location of a body.
“I pick up the phone and I say, ‘Tipline,’” said former KPRC assignment manager Barbara Magana Robertson. “He said, ‘I have a tip for you. There’s a serial killer on the loose.’”
Robertson thought the call was a sick joke. But it became intensely real when the person on the other end began giving her directions to the location of a body in a field off Richey Road in Harris County. The caller went so far as to detail how the body was positioned and which way it was facing. At some point during the call, Robertson learned she was being watched through a window that faced the station’s assignment desk.
“When I went to reach for the Key Map to find out where he was talking about, and I rolled my chair over and reached for it and he said, ‘Don’t reach for your Key Map,’” said Robertson.
During the 37-minute-long phone call, Robertson took meticulous notes as the caller detailed some of his crimes.
“He gave me clues to like four or five different murders and I had no idea. I’m thinking I’m getting one murder details and he knew I was getting several different murders,” said Robertson.
Following the call, Robertson reported the conversation to her managers and called the authorities. Later that day, investigators found the body of 16-year-old Dana Sanchez in the field.
Shore wasn’t arrested for murder until 2003, when his DNA was matched to the 1992 murder of 21-year-old Maria Del Carmen Estrada. Back in 1998 Shore was arrested and convicted of raping two young girls. As a convicted sex offender, his DNA had been added to a state database. When investigators working Estrada’s murder case tested DNA evidence found under his fingernail, it matched Shore’s.
Following his arrest, he confessed to murdering Estrada and three others: Laurie Tremblay, 15, Diana Rebollar, 9, and Dana Sanchez, 16, according to the Associated Press.
In 2004, Shore was convicted of capital murder. The trial court sentenced him to death.
The State of Texas executed Shore by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville on January, 19, 2018. His was the first execution of 2018 in Texas and the nation.
In his final statement, with a quiver in his voice, Shore apologized to the family of his victims.
“I’d like to take a moment to say I’m sorry,” Shore said. “No amount of words could ever undo what I’ve done. To the family of my victims, I wish I could undo that past. It is what it is. God bless all of you. I will die with a clear conscience. I made my peace. There is no others. I would like to wish a Happy Birthday to Barbara Carrol, today is her birthday. I would like to especially thank those that have helped me, you know who you are. God bless everybody until we meet again. I’m ready warden.”
As the lethal dose of pentobarbital was injected, Shore uttered his final words: “Oooh-ee! I can feel that.”