On the Trail of the Boxcar Bandido

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Start with the name: Police say they are looking Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, a tattooed 39-year-old Mexican rail-riding drifter and fugitive who may be responsible for as many as eight murders in Texas, Kentucky and Illinois. But his uncle, whose name is Rafael Resendiz Ramirez, tells the Associated Press that his nephew's real name is Angel Resendiz Resendiz. The killings bearing the suspect's imprint, say authorities, have all occurred near train tracks and been brutally violent, often the result of bludgeoning. What police donít know, and what worries them most, is where Ramirez/Resendiz is now, and what might have caused him to go on this suspected killing spree. All of those concerns prompted the FBI in recent days to put him on its Ten Most Wanted List.

"The remarkable thing about this man," says TIME assistant managing editor Howard Chua-Eoan, "is that while he gives the impression of being an illiterate Mexican immigrant, he is extraordinarily smart." His apparent cunning has only served to heighten the concerns of the law enforcement community. Police believe the suspect has used some 30 aliases, numerous birth dates, a variety of Social Security numbers, and repeated changes of appearance to elude them -- all of which have also enabled him to slip in and out of the U.S. with ease. "There are reports that he once left a car at the border" -- a decoy that made it look as though he was headed into Mexico -- "while apparently heading north," says Chua-Eoan. "He may also have tutored laborers in algebra, geometry and English." Exaggerated or not, the reports have all converged to make the capture of Ramirez/Resendiz one of the FBIís top priorities.