Doctor: Killer Drifter Not Insane

Tuesday, May 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) — Serial killer Angel Maturino Resendiz suffers from several personality disorders and harbors ``strange'' beliefs, but was not insane when he killed a Houston-area physician, a court-appointed psychiatrist testified.

Under cross-examination today, Dr. Ramon Laval stood by that determination. He said the influence of antipsychotic medication the 40-year-old Mexican drifter had been taking, under orders of a jail psychiatrist, had little bearing on his conclusion that Maturino Resendiz knew what he was doing when he killed Dr. Claudia Benton.

A defense psychologist and psychiatrist who had interviewed Maturino Resendiz before he went on the antipsychotic drugs had declared him insane.

Laval didn't speak with Resendiz until mid-April because Maturino Resendiz had refused to meet with him.

Maturino Resendiz has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in the slaying of Benton, one of nine killings his defense team has acknowledged he is responsible for.

Defense attorney Allen Tanner also questioned Laval today about childhood factors that might have affected Maturino Resendiz's mindset later in life, such as sniffing glue, seeing his mother attacked or injury-related brain damage.

Laval agreed that such events can affect someone later in life, although he said wouldn't effect his determination about Maturino Resendiz's sanity.

The prosecution rested at noon today and the judge instructed the jury to return Wednesday morning.

On Monday, defense expert Dr. Bruce Cohen told the jury that Maturino Resendiz suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, which can causes delusions and a sense of losing touch with reality.

Dr. Melissa Ferguson, another psychiatrist and director of the Harris County Mental Health-Mental Retardation Authority's jail unit, said she diagnosed the suspect with depression-related psychosis, not paranoid schizophrenia.

She did note, however, that his thoughts seemed to revolve around ``hyperreligious'' subjects that indicate a personality disorder. The defense claims deluded Judeo-Christian beliefs were at the root of the killings.

If found innocent, Maturino Resendiz likely would be sent to a mental institution for an undetermined time and still would face at least six other capital murder cases.

A guilty verdict would mean either lethal injection or life in prison, with no chance of parole for 40 years.

Maturino Resendiz chose not to testify on his behalf. Besides Benton, he is accused of killing five other people in Texas, two in Illinois and one in Kentucky from 1997 to 1999.