IV. Chapter Four: The Investigation of Resendez for Murder

A. The Murder of Dr. Benton

On December 16, 1998, Dr. Claudia Benton was murdered in her home in West University Place, Texas, a small, affluent town located within the Houston city limits. The evidence found by the police at her home indicated that the murderer broke into the house and attacked Dr. Benton while she was in her bed alone. (Dr. Benton’s husband and two children were away on a trip at the time.) Dr. Benton had been stabbed repeatedly in her back and hands. She had 19 blunt force injuries to her head, including three depression fractures to her skull. An autopsy revealed that Dr. Benton had been sexually assaulted. The cause of death was multiple stab wounds and blunt force trauma.

A banjo, a guitar, a stereo, and numerous pieces of jewelry were stolen from Dr. Benton’s house. Her Jeep also was stolen from her garage through dismantling of its steering column and jump-starting the vehicle.

Dr. Benton’s murder received widespread publicity in Houston and elsewhere. Because the small West University Place (WUP) Police Department was not adequately equipped to handle such a complicated crime scene, it asked the Houston Police Department to conduct the forensic work at the scene. The Houston Police Department recovered latent fingerprints from parts of the Jeep’s broken steering column in the garage and from items in the house.

On December 18, 1998, the San Antonio police recovered Dr. Benton’s stolen Jeep in a motel parking lot in San Antonio, Texas, near railroad tracks. The police processed the Jeep and obtained fingerprints from it.

Debbie Benningfield, a Deputy Administrator of the Latent Prints section of the Houston Police Department, searched the fingerprints from the steering column against the Texas Department of Public Safety’s automated fingerprint identification system (Texas AFIS). On December 26, 1998, Benningfield received a response from Texas AFIS that the fingerprints from the steering column matched those of Carlos Cluthier Rodriguez, who had been arrested in Carson County, Texas, in 1993. This was the alias used by Resendez when he had been arrested in 1993 for stealing a motor vehicle and evading arrest in Carson County. Benningfield contacted the Carson County Sheriff’s Department and obtained fingerprints (a set of “ten-prints”) that it had taken from Carlos Cluthier Rodriguez [Resendez] in 1993.

Because of certain aspects of the crime scene at Dr. Benton’s home, Benningfield believed that Resendez had the potential to be a serial killer. Also, because Resendez had not provided any identification when he was arrested in Carson County, Benningfield decided to check whether he had been arrested under any other names. On December 27 or 28, 1998, she asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to submit Carlos Cluthier Rodriguez’s [Resendez’s] fingerprints to the Western Identification Network (WIN) to search for any other matches.

The California Department of Justice’s (CAL/DOJ) AFIS database, which was connected to WIN, responded to Benningfield’s query with another fingerprint match on Resendez’s fingerprints. His fingerprints had been entered into the CAL/DOJ database after his arrest on August 18, 1995, in San Bernardino for trespassing on railroad property, carrying a loaded firearm in a public place, and receiving stolen property.

On December 29, 1998, Benningfield sent a copy of Resendez’s “ten-prints” that she had obtained from the Carson County Sheriff’s Department to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division for a check of the FBI’s NCIC database. On January 5, 1999, the FBI determined that Resendez had an extensive criminal record in NCIC.

On January 5, 1999, the WUP police met with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which advised that Resendez should be charged with burglary in connection with the crime at Dr. Benton’s house. The District Attorney’s office believed that additional evidence was needed before a warrant could be issued for a homicide charge. A warrant charging Resendez with burglary was issued by a Harris County judge on January 5 and entered into NCIC the same day. The NCIC record noted that Resendez was suspected of murder.

B. The Police Attempt to Place Lookouts for Resendez

From Resendez’s criminal history records, the Houston and WUP police knew that Resendez was an illegal alien who had been detained by the INS previously and had an A-file. The police therefore attempted to place lookouts with the INS and the United States Customs Service in the event that Resendez was apprehended at the border.

First, in December 1998, a Houston Police Department analyst contacted a Senior Intelligence Research Officer with the Customs Service in Houston, and asked the Customs research officer to place a “border alert” on Resendez in the Customs Service database. The Houston police analyst told the OIG that she did not mention the Customs’ Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) database by name, but believed that the research officer understood she was referring to a TECS alert.

The Customs Service informed the OIG that no lookout had been placed in TECS for Resendez (under that name or any other of his known aliases) until June 22, 1999 (after the FBI had placed Resendez on its list of “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives”). The Customs research officer who received the call from the Houston police analyst told the OIG that she recalled the conversation, but did not recall why the lookout was not entered in TECS.

As noted in Chapter II, TECS is a Customs Service database typically used by Customs Service and INS inspectors at ports of entry to check in-coming travelers. The Customs Service also operates a few outbound checkpoints looking for violators of Customs laws involving currency, weapons, or ammunition. But because the Customs Service does not ordinarily check travelers leaving the country and because TECS is a name-based database, there was only a very slim chance that Resendez would be arrested leaving the country as a result of a lookout in TECS. TECS is designed for determining if there are lookouts for aliens seeking to enter the United States at ports of entry, not for identifying illegal aliens who cross the border between ports of entry.

Second, shortly after the Houston police attempted to have the Customs Service enter the lookout, the WUP police made a separate attempt to have a lookout for Resendez placed in INS databases. On January 8, 1999, WUP Detective Kenneth Macha received a telephone call from an employee of the U.S. Department of State then stationed in Houston. The State Department employee told Macha that he had seen reports of Dr. Benton’s murder on local television and in the newspapers. The State Department employee had checked Resendez’s name in State Department databases for recent passport or visa activity, but did not find anything. However, the State Department employee advised Macha that the INS could help the WUP police place a “border alert on the suspect.” The State Department employee then gave Macha the name of an INS Special Agent, Kelly Dozier, who works in the Anti-Smuggling Unit of the INS’s Houston Investigations office.

Macha telephoned Dozier the same day. When interviewed by the OIG, the two had differing recollections about their conversation. According to Macha, he told Dozier that he had a suspect of Hispanic origin who possibly might be crossing the border. Macha said that he did not specifically recall whether he provided Dozier with Resendez’s name, but said he assumed he did because Resendez’s name and the details of the case were in the news at the time. Macha said that Dozier explained to him that border lookouts are entered in TECS and suggested that he contact the Customs Service. According to Macha, Dozier provided him the name of a Senior Special Agent with Customs who could place a lookout in TECS.

According to Dozier, Macha did not mention Resendez by name during their conversation. Dozier told the OIG that the conversation focused on lookouts in general as opposed to the specifics of the Resendez case. According to a memorandum she wrote on July 2, 1999, about this conversation, she acknowledged that Macha wanted information about putting a “border lookout” for an individual.31 She wrote that she told Macha “that at the border (or border equivalents) lookouts are utilized via the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), a system operated by U.S. Customs.” She also reported to the OIG that she spoke to Macha about a border lookout or a “BOLO,” which stands for “Be on the Lookout.” A BOLO is included in the news portion of TECS and is sometimes placed on bulletin boards at ports of entry. According to Dozier, she thought a lookout in TECS would notify inspectors at the border to check outbound as well as inbound traffic.32

Dozier told the OIG that she knew the name of some Customs Service employees, but she did not know the name of the Customs Service employee who Macha called. She said she gave Macha the telephone number for the Customs Service office at Houston’s International Airport.

When questioned specifically by the OIG as to why she did not suggest that Resendez be entered into the IDENT lookout database, Dozier replied that she did not know at the time that an alien who was not physically present could be enrolled in IDENT. She also said she was familiar with IDENT’s recidivist database but not its lookout database. Dozier said she had received informal training on IDENT from someone who had received training from the contractor. She asserted, however, that she had not received any information about enrolling aliens into the lookout database. Dozier said she did not normally use IDENT because it was not usually working.

On January 8, 1999, immediately after his conversation with Dozier, Macha contacted the Customs Service agent and explained the details of the murder of Dr. Benton and the search for Resendez. According to Macha, the Customs agent told him that he could put an alert for Resendez at border crossings under his aliases.

The Customs agent told the OIG that he recalled receiving a telephone call from a WUP police officer, although he could not recall the police officer’s name. The Customs agent said that the officer explained that the police had a suspect they believed would be leaving the country and the police wanted to know whether Customs had the ability to check to see if the suspect had left and if he could place a “lookout’ for the suspect. The Customs agent said that while he was on the telephone with the police officer, he queried the TECS database using information the police provided on the suspect. The Customs agent said that while he was querying TECS, the NCIC database recognized a “possible” name match.33 He claimed that because Resendez was already in NCIC as a wanted person, he did not enter a lookout for him in TECS. The Customs agent did not recall what, if anything, he told Macha about this. Macha told the OIG, however, that he believed the Customs agent would enter a lookout in TECS.

C. The Police Contact Houston INS Investigators About Resendez

In early January 1999, while reviewing Resendez’s criminal records, a Houston police analyst noted that Resendez had been apprehended previously by the INS and had an INS A-file number. The Houston police analyst therefore contacted INS Special Agent Marco Saltarelli of the INS’s Houston District Investigations office. The analyst knew Saltarelli because they had worked together on two previous investigations. The analyst gave Resendez’s name and A-file number to Saltarelli and requested that he obtain the A-file for her. The analyst said she asked for Resendez’s A-file because, in her experience, it often contains the names of a suspect’s relatives, jail records, visitor records, and correspondence, which could provide leads to his whereabouts.

Saltarelli worked in the Alien Criminal Apprehension Program (ACAP). The mission of this program was to apprehend and deport criminal aliens. According to Saltarelli and Special Agent David Jennings, his acting supervisor in the unit during December 1998, Jennings assigned the Resendez case to Saltarelli. Jennings told Saltarelli to order the A-file and provide the police analyst with any other assistance necessary.

As a result of the Houston police analyst’s request, Saltarelli ran Resendez’s alien number through the INS Central Index System and determined that his A-file was in the INS District Office in San Antonio, Texas. Saltarelli ordered the A-file. On February 8, Saltarelli called the Houston police analyst to notify her that the A-file had arrived in Houston. A Houston police officer then contacted Detective Macha of the WUP Police Department, told him that information regarding Resendez was available at the INS, and gave him Saltarelli’s telephone number. Macha called Saltarelli to ask for the information and found out that he was on leave until February 22, 1999.

On February 22, 1999, when Saltarelli returned from leave, Macha and WUP Detective Joseph Sanders went to the INS Houston District Office to meet with Saltarelli. According to Saltarelli, they informed him that a warrant had been issued charging Resendez with burglary in connection with the murder of Dr. Benton. Saltarelli showed Resendez’s A-file to the detectives and allowed them to review it. Saltarelli said they did not ask for a copy of the file and only asked to take copies of photographs of Resendez to submit to the television show “America’s Most Wanted.” Saltarelli said he received verbal approval from the acting Deputy Assistant District Director for Investigations (DADDI) and the INS Public Affairs Officer for the police to copy the photographs. On February 26, 1999, WUP Detective Sanders returned and copied photographs of Resendez.

The WUP detectives’ account of their meeting with Saltarelli and their reason for reviewing Resendez’s A-file differed from Saltarelli’s version. The detectives acknowledged to the OIG that they obtained copies of photographs of Resendez that were different from the ones they already had and that they spoke to Saltarelli about the television show “America’s Most Wanted.” However, they said that their main purpose in reviewing the A-file was to obtain information about Resendez that could help them locate him. For example, the A-file contained a number of leads about Resendez’s whereabouts and also provided details about his criminal past.

Detective Macha said that during the meeting with Saltarelli on February 22, Macha mentioned his previous conversation with the Customs Service agent who had agreed to place a lookout for Resendez “at the border.” Macha said that Saltarelli then volunteered to call another agent in the Customs Service, his “buddy,” to confirm that a lookout had been placed. Saltarelli told the OIG that during his meeting with the detectives he volunteered to “put a lookout on the border” with the Customs Service, but the detectives responded that they already had done so.

The detectives and Saltarelli agree that Saltarelli called his friend, a Special Agent with the Customs Service in Houston. Saltarelli said he introduced Macha to his Customs friend on the telephone and that Macha provided his friend with a description of Resendez, including his name, height, weight, tattoos, and aliases. Macha and WUP Detective Sanders recalled that Saltarelli contacted his friend at the Customs Service while they were present to confirm that the lookout for Resendez was in place, but they denied that they spoke to the Customs agent on the telephone.

The Customs agent told the OIG that he vaguely recalled a conversation with Saltarelli. The Customs agent could not recall whether he spoke with the police or just with Saltarelli. The Customs agent claimed that while he was on the telephone, his computer “crashed,” and he therefore was unable to determine whether a lookout for Resendez had been placed in TECS. The Customs agent told the OIG that when he tried to contact Saltarelli again to obtain the information about the suspect, the telephone number Saltarelli had provided him did not work. The Customs agent acknowledged to the OIG that he did not follow up on the matter.

Macha said that he did not recall getting an answer whether the Customs Service had placed a lookout for Resendez in its database. Macha thought that the Customs agent had to check the records further. Macha said Saltarelli never got back to him to confirm that a lookout had been placed, and he never called Saltarelli or the Customs agent to confirm this. Saltarelli also acknowledged that he did not know whether the Customs Service had ever entered a lookout, and he did not follow up with his Customs Service friend or Macha about the lookout.

At no time during the meeting with the detectives on February 22 did Saltarelli ever suggest placing a lookout for Resendez in IDENT so that he would be detained if he were apprehended by the Border Patrol attempting to enter the United States illegally or if he were apprehended by the Border Patrol in the United States. Saltarelli also did not tell the WUP detectives about the existence of IDENT. Saltarelli told us that he did not know about IDENT’s lookout database at the time.34

One of Saltarelli’s acting supervisors, David Jennings, said that from time to time, Saltarelli would give him feedback on the Resendez case. Jennings emphasized to the OIG that he was not Saltarelli’s acting supervisor throughout 1999, and that Saltarelli provided him information more as a courtesy than anything else.35 Jennings did not recall anything specific that Saltarelli told him about the case, but he had the impression that Saltarelli was “doing what he should do.” Jennings said that typically Saltarelli would tell him about cases that Jennings had assigned to him even if Jennings was not officially Saltarelli’s supervisor during that time period. Saltarelli told the OIG he gave Jennings information about Resendez because Jennings had assigned him the case.

Susan Friesenhahn, Saltarelli’s other acting supervisor in the ACAP unit around this time, recalled discussing the Resendez case with Saltarelli some time in February 1999. Saltarelli brought the Resendez case to her attention because the television show “America’s Most Wanted” was interested in the case. Friesenhahn recalled referring the Resendez matter to the INS Public Affairs Officer. Friesenhahn also recalled reviewing Resendez’s A-file with Saltarelli.

D. A Texas Ranger Contacts Another Houston INS Investigator About Resendez

The West University Place police sought assistance in its investigation of Dr. Benton’s murder from the Texas Rangers, a state law enforcement agency. Texas Ranger Andrew Carter was assigned to the investigation. According to Carter, on March 1, 1999, he contacted Special Agent Albert Plasket at the INS Houston District Office about Resendez. Carter had previously worked with Plasket on another investigation. Plasket worked in the Houston Investigation’s office Anti-Smuggling Unit, which is responsible for investigating and apprehending persons who smuggle aliens into the United States.

Carter made an appointment to meet with Plasket at the INS on March 4 to obtain a copy of Resendez’s A-file. Plasket told the OIG that he recalled Carter calling him and asking if he could review Resendez’s A-file. Plasket said he went to Saltarelli, the case agent, and asked if it was okay for Carter to review the A-file. Saltarelli said it was. Because Saltarelli was not going to be in the office on March 4, Saltarelli told Plasket that the file would be on his desk. Plasket said he agreed to show the A-file to Carter as a “favor” to Saltarelli.

On March 4, 1999, Carter and WUP Detectives Macha and Sanders came to the INS office to review the A-file. Plasket provided them with the A-file and allowed them to copy it. Carter and the detectives copied almost everything in the file, including correspondence between Resendez and his family and his prior indictments.

Macha and Carter told the OIG that while they were copying the file several Houston INS special agents introduced themselves and discussed the Resendez case with them. Carter said that these investigators seemed familiar with the details of the case. Neither Plasket nor any of these other investigators ever mentioned the existence of IDENT to Carter or Macha.

On March 10, 1999, Carter was in San Antonio investigating leads on Resendez that he gathered from the A-file. Another Texas Ranger working with him on the case informed him that the INS had an “internal system” for putting “holds” on aliens. Carter therefore decided to “double-check” and make sure that the INS knew that the Texas Rangers wanted Resendez held if the INS came in contact with him again. Carter said he knew that Resendez was an illegal alien from Mexico who had a history of contacts with the INS and of being deported by the INS. Carter said he did not know about IDENT at this time.

On March 10, Carter called Plasket to make sure Resendez was in the INS’s “internal system.” Carter provided the OIG his notes of this telephone conversation with Plasket. According to these notes, Carter asked Plasket to put an “internal hold” on Resendez. The notes do not indicate Plasket’s response, and Carter told the OIG that he did not recall Plasket’s specific response. However, Carter told the OIG that he understood Plasket would take care of putting the “internal hold” on Resendez.

Plasket told the OIG that he did not do anything on the Resendez matter other than meeting with Carter on March 4. When questioned whether he recalled receiving a telephone call from Carter sometime after the March 4 meeting, Plasket said he did not recall any such telephone call. He said that if he had received such a call from Carter he would have referred Carter to Saltarelli, who was the agent handling the Resendez case. When we asked Plasket about Carter’s request to place an “internal hold” on Resendez, Plasket initially responded that he did not understand that term. Plasket then said that the only “internal hold” he could think of was when an alien is in the custody of another law enforcement agency, the INS can put a detainer on the alien.

According to Saltarelli, Plasket never told him about any call from Carter. Saltarelli told the OIG that he learned from Plasket after March 4 that Carter and Macha had been at the INS office and had reviewed Resendez’s A-file. But Saltarelli said that after he heard from Plasket about the meeting, Saltarelli had no further inquiries about the Resendez case until June 1999.36

E. The Weekly Intelligence Report With Information on Resendez

At the end of February 1999, Saltarelli spoke about Resendez with Special Agent Michael Juliano, the INS Houston District’s intelligence officer. Juliano began as the intelligence officer in January 1999. Prior to that, he was a special agent in the Houston Investigations office.37

When he began as the Houston intelligence officer, Juliano informed Houston INS employees that they should provide him with information about cases under investigation so he could put the information in a Weekly Intelligence Report. As part of his duties as an intelligence officer, Juliano prepared a “Weekly Intelligence Report” that included information about investigations conducted by the Houston INS District Office and statistical information about Houston INS activities, such as the number of deportations and inspections. The Weekly Intelligence Report was distributed to the District Director and to other offices within the Houston INS District. It was also provided to the INS’s Central Region Intelligence Office.38 Among other duties, the Central Region Intelligence Office consolidates information from Weekly Intelligence Reports into quarterly reports that are sent to INS Intelligence Headquarters.

Saltarelli suggested to Juliano that the Resendez case should be included in his Weekly Intelligence Report. Saltarelli provided Juliano with a memorandum, dated February 28, 1999, in which Saltarelli described his involvement with the Resendez investigation as follows:

Through Official Channels

Since December 1998, I have been assisting Houston Police and West University Place Police in an ongoing homicide investigation. The suspect is a Rafael Resendez-Ramirez [A-number] A21 214 312. On 2/26/99, I provided photos of the subject from his A file to assist in the filming of an episode of Americas Most Wanted that will feature the case. I will advise you on any further developments.

Thank you for your consideration.

Saltarelli also showed Resendez’s A-file to Juliano. In addition, Juliano obtained a copy of a “Crime Stopper” Poster about Resendez issued by the WUP police, and Juliano ran an NCIC printout on Resendez, which showed Resendez’s criminal history.

Juliano included one paragraph about Resendez in the Weekly Intelligence Report dated February 22 to February 28, 1999. The paragraph on Resendez was included in a section of the report entitled “Criminal Aliens.” It stated that the Houston police had requested INS assistance in locating Resendez, a fugitive wanted in connection with a burglary/homicide in West University Place, Texas. The paragraph stated that Saltarelli had turned over photographs and fingerprints to the police. It also stated that the investigation was being filmed for the television show “America’s Most Wanted.” The report contained Resendez’s warrant number, his A-file number, and his NCIC number. Juliano said he included the information about Resendez in his report because it was a significant incident for an investigator to assist in attempting to apprehend an alien murderer.

In the Central Region’s Intelligence Office, Assistant Regional Director for Intelligence James Bailey and Intelligence Operations Specialist Paul Broderick were among those employees who would have received Juliano’s Weekly Intelligence Report. The Central Region forwarded the report to INS Headquarters, as it typically did with all such intelligence reports.39

In a March 11, 1999, e-mail to Juliano, Broderick offered to make an electronic wanted poster for Resendez if Juliano sent him a photograph of Resendez to scan into the computer. Broderick’s e-mail suggested that the wanted poster could be sent nationwide on e-mail to all INS border stations and other INS enforcement sites. Broderick’s e-mail stated that there is “[t]he distinct possibility that we [the INS] will run into him [Resendez] before anybody else exists [sic]. A wanted poster . . . may enable one of our officers to end this dangerous criminal’s career.” Broderick sent a copy of this e-mail to his supervisor, Bailey, who also sent an e-mail to Juliano on March 11, 1999, reiterating the offer to make an electronic wanted poster if Juliano sent a photograph of Resendez and a contact number.

Broderick told the OIG that he did not consider having Resendez entered in IDENT. He said the Central Region does not have IDENT. He said that until the OIG investigation of the Resendez case began, he had no familiarity with IDENT and had never received any training on it.

Bailey also did not suggest that Juliano enter Resendez in IDENT. Bailey said that he had never received IDENT training and, although he is familiar with IDENT, has never used it. When asked if he or anyone else recommended to Juliano that he place Resendez in any other database, such as NAILS, Bailey said he did not think any such suggestion was made. He said he thought this was Investigation’s job.

Juliano told the OIG that he thought that the suggestion to make a wanted poster was a good idea because it might create some notoriety for Resendez. He said that after he received the e-mail from Broderick offering to make the wanted poster, Juliano took a photograph from the WUP police Crime Stopper poster, copied it on a color copier, mounted it, and mailed it to Broderick in a “franked” envelope. Juliano never heard from Broderick further about the wanted poster, and Juliano did not know whether Broderick ever received the envelope. Juliano said he did not follow up to determine whether Broderick received the envelope and whether the wanted poster was made because he was not investigating the Resendez case.

Broderick said he did not recall receiving any response from Juliano to his offer to make a wanted poster for Resendez. Broderick said he could not locate any reply from Juliano to his e-mail. Broderick said he did not follow up with Juliano about the wanted poster because Broderick frequently requested information from the field and received nothing in return. Broderick said Juliano was not in his chain of command, and therefore he could not make Juliano do anything.

Similarly, Bailey told the OIG that he had no evidence or recollection that the Central Region ever received a response as a result of the e-mails to Juliano offering to make a wanted poster. Bailey said that they have looked all throughout the Central Region Intelligence Office for any information that Juliano may have forwarded to them and have found nothing. Bailey said when he later asked Broderick about the offer to make the wanted poster, after the INS’s actions in the Resendez case were questioned in June 1999, Broderick stated he forgot about the wanted poster because he had not received anything from Juliano.

Saltarelli told us that after the Weekly Intelligence Report was sent to the Central Region, Juliano informed him that someone in the Central Region was going to put out a wanted poster for Resendez. Saltarelli said he probably told Juliano that sounded like a good idea. When we asked Saltarelli why he never followed up on the suggestion from the Central Region about the wanted poster, Saltarelli said he had a lot of other cases and he did not have a good answer to why he did not pursue the matter.

In the end, we could not determine what happened to the envelope Juliano sent to Broderick. Juliano said that he had no evidence corroborating that he sent it and no one saw him do it, but he appeared credible when he told OIG investigators that he had sent it. Broderick also appeared credible when he said he never received it. We do not know where or how the envelope was lost, but we do know that neither Juliano, Bailey, Broderick, nor Saltarelli followed up on the idea for a wanted poster, and no poster was made.

F. The Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force

The Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force (Gulf Coast Task Force), a multi-agency task force led by the United States Marshals Service (USMS), was informed about the warrant for Resendez shortly after it was issued in January 1999. The Gulf Coast Task force seeks to execute warrants for violent state and federal offenders. It is comprised of 28 Deputy U.S. Marshals and local law enforcement agents from a variety of Houston and Texas law enforcement agencies. Other agencies maintain liaisons with the Gulf Coast Task Force and provide assistance on an “as needed” basis. The INS assigned an agent from its Houston Investigations office, Herb Darsee, to be the principal liaison with the task force.

A detective with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office who was a member of the Gulf Coast Task Force received the warrant for Resendez in early January 1999 and began investigating his whereabouts. This detective searched a Texas criminal database and NCIC and found Resendez’s criminal history. He obtained a copy of Resendez’s arrest record and photograph. Using Resendez’s criminal history, he obtained some of Resendez’s prison records, which indicated Resendez was an illegal alien. Because Resendez’s prison records listed a number of addresses in Mexico, the detective concluded that Resendez was a transient and probably already had fled to Mexico. He told the OIG that once he reached that conclusion, he stopped actively searching for Resendez. Although the detective said he normally would have contacted the INS in a case involving an alien, he did not do so in this case because WUP Detective Macha told him that he was handling the “INS part of the case.”

When questioned about this alleged conversation with the task force agent, Macha did not recall making any such statement. Macha added that if he had made such a statement, he would have been referring only to the fact that he was getting information from the INS (i.e., the A-file).

G. The FBI Enters the Resendez Investigation

In December 1998, the West University Place police had contacted Houston FBI Special Agent Mark Young, who “profiles” violent crimes, and asked him to assess the crime scene at Dr. Benton’s house. However, before Young completed his assessment, the police identified Resendez as the suspected murderer through fingerprints. Young told the OIG that he stopped his review of the case because once the suspect is identified the police do not need a profiler.

On May 4 or 5, 1999, the Texas Rangers contacted Young and asked him to review the double homicide of Norman and Karen Sirnic, who had been murdered on April 30, 1999, in their home in Weimar, Texas. They were beaten to death with a sledgehammer, and Mrs. Sirnic had been sexually assaulted. Texas Rangers who examined these murders noticed similarities between them and Dr. Benton’s murder and had the DNA obtained from the murders compared, and it matched.

After the two murders were connected, Young ran the crime scenes through a VICAP database40 and determined that a murder that had occurred in Lexington, Kentucky, on August 29, 1997, seemed to match the details of the murders of Dr. Benton and the Sirnics. In the Kentucky case, Christopher Maier was beaten and killed while he and his female companion were walking along railroad tracks near Lexington. His companion was sexually assaulted but survived the attack. The DNA evidence from the Maier murder matched DNA obtained from the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Sirnic and Dr. Benton. Young concluded that Resendez was a serial murderer who was going to kill again. Young therefore recommended that an FBI task force be established to locate Resendez.

According to the Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) of the Houston FBI office, the Resendez case was initially assigned to the Houston FBI fugitive squad on May 24 or May 25, 1999. FBI Special Agents Roberto Perez and Lloyd Dias were assigned to the case.

On May 27, 1999, the FBI obtained a federal warrant charging Resendez with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution (UFAP). A UFAP warrant can be used to invoke federal jurisdiction when a suspect has fled across state lines after committing a crime. The warrant, which charged Resendez with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for burglary, also described the four murders for which he was a suspect – the murder in West University Place, Texas, in December 1998; the murders in Weimar, Texas, in April 1999; and the murder in Lexington, Kentucky, in August 1997.

On May 28, 1999, the FBI entered the UFAP warrant into NCIC. This was the third warrant for Resendez in NCIC. The first was the warrant issued on May 28, 1995, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he failed to appear to face the charge of receiving a stolen vehicle; the second was the warrant issued on January 5, 1999, in connection with the burglary and murder of Dr. Benton.

Both Dias and Perez told the OIG that they believed that the INS already had placed a lookout at the border for Resendez. Perez said that Young had told him that the Texas Rangers already had contacted the INS. Perez thought that if Resendez were encountered at the border he would be stopped. Dias thought the Texas Rangers and the West University Place police had also filed a “stop” with the INS before the FBI became involved in the case. He said he believed that the Texas Rangers had sent the appropriate notification “to the border” and that the West University Place police had put a stop in place. Texas Ranger Carter acknowledged to the OIG that he informed the FBI that he had been in touch with the INS. Carter said he was sure he would have told the FBI that the INS had placed an “internal hold” on Resendez, based on his conversation with INS investigator Plasket. In fact, no one in the INS had entered a lookout for Resendez in any INS database.

31 After the controversy about the INS’s handling of Resendez arose, Dozier prepared this memorandum to explain her actions in the matter at the request of her supervisor.

32 Macha told the OIG that he knew what a BOLO was and that Dozier did not mention anything about a BOLO to him.

33 When TECS is queried against a name and numeric identifier (such as a date of birth), TECS automatically checks the NCIC wanted persons file.

34 In Chapter VIII, we examine Saltarelli’s explanations for not mentioning IDENT.

35 Between December 1998 and April 1999, Jennings and Susan Friesenhahn rotated as Saltarelli’s acting supervisors in ACAP. In April 1999, Friesenhahn became the permanent supervisor in ACAP.

36 Plasket no longer works for the INS. Based on an unrelated investigation conducted by the OIG, Plasket was indicted on April 7, 1999, for extortion and theft of government funds. He was arrested on April 8, 1999, and subsequently suspended from his INS position. On August 31, 1999, he pled guilty in federal court to theft of government funds. He officially resigned from the INS on October 6, 1999. On January 4, 2000, he was sentenced to probation for one year, fined $2,500, and ordered to pay restitution of $250.

37 In general, as full-time or collateral duties, INS intelligence officers manage the collection, processing, and dissemination of intelligence to INS offices and outside entities.

38 The INS is divided into three regions – the Eastern, Central, and Western. The Central Region is comprised of 11 Districts and 5 sectors. Each Regional Director is responsible for the INS operations within the region, and the District Directors and Chief Patrol Agents within the region report directly to him. The Regional Director does not direct District operations. The primary contact between the Region and the District involves funds, resources, personnel, and other administrative matters.

39 These reports were normally reviewed and placed in LEADS (the Law Enforcement Assistance Data System), a software package that organizes and analyzes data.

40 VICAP stands for the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. When an FBI profiler is asked for help at a crime scene, he often fills out a computer form that contains approximately 190 questions about the crime scene. That data is entered into the VICAP database to see whether any other cases in the database have significant similarities.