Jesse Howell and Wendy

SUMTER BONES MAY BE GIRL'S

Police think unidentified skeletal remains unearthed Saturday morning in Sumter County are those of a teenage girl killed three years ago by notorious railroad killer Angel Maturino Resendiz.

Wendy Rachel Von Huben, the 16-year-old traveling companion of a Woodstock, Ill., Man killed in 1997 in the same area, vanished and was never found.

Police think Saturday's discovery by Marion and Sumter detectives and trained dogs ends a three-year homicide investigation. They found the remains in the Oxford area, near railroad tracks about a half-mile north of County Road 472.

Detectives discovered the beaten body of 19-year-old Jesse Howell near the same tracks March 23, 1997, and began searching for Wendy, who had been listed as a runaway and was with Howell when she left her home in Woodstock on Feb. 23 , 1997.

Detectives followed leads while working with the Police Department in Woodstock and aired information about Wendy on national television shows, including Unsolved Mysteries.

After Resendiz's arrest in July 1999, Marion County detectives noticed similarities in cases and began working with Houston law-enforcement officials in an effort to interview him.

Resendiz has been sentenced to death in Texas for the rape and murder of a Houston-area doctor. His lawyers have conceded that he killed eight other people in Texas, Illinois and Kentucky.

In a letter written in June to the Marion County Sheriff's Office, Resendiz said he killed a man and a teenage girl near Ocala three years ago, and he gave investigators details on the slayings.

Investigators had never said what type of weapon was used to fatally beat Howell, but Resendiz correctly identified the weapon in his letter. He said he hit Howell in the head with a piece of hose from a rail car that he found lying near the tracks.

But two maps Resendiz provided - one showing where he killed the man and the other where he buried the girl - were not specific enough, and investigators said they would have to interview him in person to gather more facts. Marion detectives had traveled to Texas a year earlier to interview Resendiz, but his lawyers blocked their attempt.

On Thursday, Marion County sheriff's Detective Jeff Owens and Maj. Patti Lumpkin conducted a face-to-face interview with Resendiz, who provided more details, and Saturday, detectives began searching for Wendy's body.

About 10:45 a.m., they discovered the remains about 35 feet from the railroad tracks as described by Resendiz.

Medical examiners were working late Saturday to identify the remains positively.