My week is done. I just finished the last edit on my child abuse “capture” that is airing this Saturday night (see Monday’s “Diary“). So, now all I need is final approval from my executive producer, and then it’s on to my next story. It’s strange, I feel bad letting this one go. I would love to be able to tell you that I’ll keep tabs on those children forever, but I’m sure my daily thoughts of them will turn into weekly thoughts. Then monthly. Then yearly. You get the picture. When my job goes as planned, it takes the bad guys off the street and turns me into something of a “good Samaritan.” Would I be that good Samaritan if my job didn’t naturally make me one? I wish I could say yes, but I’m not so sure.
I had this same sort of empty feeling back in July when a fugitive I had been working on for months turned himself in to the Texas Rangers. You probably read about him: Rafael Resendez-Ramirez. The man the news media sensationally dubbed “The Railway Killer.” Before the rest of the media had any clue who he was and before the FBI named him to its Ten Most Wanted list, he was just another bad guy who happened to be placed in my in-box. It started off last March when a doctor was murdered in the Houston area. Not exactly national news, but it came to my attention when my boss, Steve, handed me a box of tapes and police reports and told me to write the story. The victim’s friends and family had been e-mailing our executive producer for weeks asking for our assistance. Who knows if the story ever would have made air if they hadn’t been so persistent? But they were, and from then on, Rafael Resendez-Ramirez was my one and only focus. To say the story was my focus is a gross understatement. That story was my life. Five months after the doctor was murdered in Houston, a pastor and his wife were found murdered in their home in tiny Weimar, Texas. Both were bludgeoned to death with a 12-pound sledgehammer. Word got back to me that the DNA from the Weimar crime scene matched the DNA from the Houston crime scene. Was it a serial killer? We debated it around the office for about a week. One week later it was official. A 73-year-old woman was found in her bed–a pickax embedded in her head. Fingerprints were a match with Resendez-Ramirez. Plus, all the murders had taken place less than a mile away from railroad tracks. Any doubts of his status as a serial killer were erased that day. It just went on and on. New victims were turning up left and right, mostly from Texas. But one day we got a surprise in the office. My co-worker Cindy had pitched a case two years ago about a young couple from the University of Kentucky. They had been walking on the railroad tracks after a party when a stranger approached them. They thought it was a robbery, so they did everything he said. But he didn’t rob them. He killed 21-year-old Christopher Maier as he was begging the man to spare his girlfriend. The female victim was 19 at the time. She was raped, beaten, and left for dead. I have no idea how she survived, but she somehow managed to stagger into a nearby house and ask for help. The woman is a phenomenal person. I got to know her over the summer, and her strength never ceased to amaze me. It never will.
We didn’t air their story back in 1997, because there was no suspect at that time. Just a sketch of a Hispanic male and a DNA sample. When these “railroad” killings started taking place over the summer, Kentucky detectives ran their DNA through a computer system, just to see what would happen. It came up with a match. Rafael Resendez-Ramirez. Knowing that he had started killing two years before the murder of the Houston doctor brought the case to a whole new level. Finally, the FBI named him to the Ten Most Wanted list. But it wasn’t the FBI who got him. It was those badass Texas Rangers who finally put it all to an end. As long as I live, I will be a die-hard fan of the Texas Rangers. Cowboy hats, chewing tobacco, boots, and all. Plus, they had homemade cherry pie and Dr Pepper in their office. The story ended for me on July 13, when Resendez-Ramirez turned himself in on the Mexico–El Paso border. It’s strange; our TV show focuses on the fugitives, and once they are found, it’s usually the end of the road for America’s Most Wanted. After Resendez-Ramirez was put in jail, I sank into a depression. Not that I wasn’t happy he was caught! But my entire focus disappeared into thin air. After he was shipped off, I had the chance to look around and see how my own life had fallen by the wayside. I practically had to reintroduce myself to my family. But I snapped right out of it when the next story came along.
Come Monday, I will be sifting through the stack of new cases that found their way into my in-box over this week. No more Resendez-Ramirez. No more child-abusers. Once I turn the page, I rarely turn it back. Who knows what crimes will occur in the following weeks and months? I do know that I will probably be covering one of them.