A jury heard harrowing details Friday about a string of killings that sowed fear throughout Texas railroad communities last summer until the surrender of admitted serial killer Angel Maturino Resendiz.
The panel convicted the so-called railroad killer of capital murder Thursday for the rape and slaying of a Houston-area doctor, Claudia Benton. Next week, they'll decide whether he should be executed.
Prosecutors on Friday first focused on the beating death of 26-year-old Houston schoolteacher Noemi Dominguez, whose covered body was found in her bedroom by her brother on June 5, 1999.
"I lifted this quilt my mother made for her, and a few articles of clothing," said Alejandro Dominguez, now a 29-year-old Arizona State University law student. "Honestly, I jumped back and I think I shrieked."
Maturino Resendiz, 40, told a psychiatrist he killed Dominguez because of abortion rights literature in her home, though such pamphlets were never found and her brother testified she was a Roman Catholic who belonged to an anti-abortion group while attending Rice University.
Like all the crime scenes, Dominguez's duplex unit was near a railroad line. Maturino Resendiz's primary way to travel was riding freight trains across his native Mexico and the United States.
Linda Vacek described finding her 73-year-old mother the day before Dominguez's body was discovered. "I ran to find my husband," Vacek said, her voice quaking. "We called 911."
The jury then viewed a photograph showing how police discovered the victim, Josephine Konvicka, lying in her blood-soaked bed with a pickax still buried in her forehead.
In what investigators consider a taunt, a toy train set that likely had been in the widow's closet was left out in the open. Dominguez's blood was found on the pickax, leading investigators to believe it was used in both killings.
Other testimony focused on the slaying of Norman "Skip" Sirnic, a pastor, and his wife, Karen, who were found bludgeoned with a sledgehammer in bed on May 2, 1999.
Ted Neely, congregation president of the Weimar United Church, testified that he became worried a half-hour into the scheduled Sunday morning service when the usually prompt Sirnic had not arrived to officiate. He went behind the church and into the parsonage to investigate.
"I turned and walked into the master bedroom, and that's when I spotted Skip. He was lying on the bed, on his stomach with his head turned toward the door. I ran out of the house."
The last case the jury heard before retiring for the weekend was that of Leafie Mason, an 87-year-old woman beaten to death with one of her own antique flatirons in her Hughes Springs home.
Maturino Resendiz is linked to those five Texas killings besides Benton's, another in Kentucky and two more in rural southern Illinois. Prosecutors are presenting the cases in reverse chronological order.
Shortly after his conviction Thursday, Maturino Resendiz told the court outside the jury's presence that he wanted to die by injection rather than get life in prison, jurors' only alternative. With life, he would not be eligible for parole until 2039.
Maturino Resendiz has requested that his attorneys mount no defense during this phase. However, defense attorney Allen Tanner has occasionally cross-examined some witnesses and lodged objections to some evidence.