News Hostage

Dear Railcar Killer...

In the never-ending search for the exclusive interview, reporters have flattered a lot of people they'd probably rather not have flattered. They've written fawning letters they'd just as soon not see the light of day.

Channel 13's Cynthia Hunt is one. She has been among the local TV types who have been hyping the banal jailhouse letters they've received from the (alleged) Railcar Killer, Angel Maturino Resendiz. Rumors are that Resendiz writes back only to female reporters who send him photos, but his lawyer, Allen Tanner, says he doesn't know anything about that.

Hunt may or may not have sent a photo of herself -- she didsend photos of her dog, and video stills of Resendiz's daughter and pet -- but she wrote a handwritten letter to Resendiz on August 19 that someone posted on the Web October 7.

How do you butter up someone alleged to have killed nine people in three states? Easy:

1. Be effusive: "Thank you so much for your letterŠ.You are smart enough to be your own attorney (like you did in St. Louis)," Hunt wrote, referring to Resendiz's bizarre and inept stint representing himself at trial a few years ago. "An FBI agent once told me you had a high IQ."

2. Enough about you, let's talk about me: "OK, now for your questions. Do I love kids? Yes, yes, yes! I don't have any children yet because I am not married, but I think children are a blessing and I look so forward to having them."

3. Engage in deep theological discussions: "I read with interest what you wrote about angels," Hunt wrote. "I believe in angels with my entire heart. One day I fell asleep driving, and awakened just in time to stop from crashing into a concrete overpass. I believe angels [saved me]."

4. Chuckle over how klutzy those cops can be: "I know it was very hard for you when you were on the runŠ.When I was a reporter in Alabama, this man named Donald Bryant was on the run and the police looked everywhere for him. He saw one of my stories and I interviewed him over the phone and told his side of the story. It was funny because the police came and asked for my help to find him, but I couldn't help them because I had no idea where he was. FinallyŠŠthey put him in an escape-proof jail, a big new fancy prison, and guess what? Yep, he escaped. They finally caught him -- man, people thought he was funny and scary. Enough about him!"

5. Discuss current events: "I know you have been following the story about the white [police] officer who killed his black neighbor. Many in our community were upset with his sentence of probationŠ.Who do you think should win the next presidential race? And why?Š.You have such a strong opinion of politics. It makes me sad when people don't care about politics."

Maybe the angels can help Hunt with her sadness. In any case, the Web site where the letter was anonymously posted -- with a promise of more to come -- was no longer working October 8.

Channel 13 news director Bill Bouyer hadn't seen the letter when he was first contacted by us. He couldn't even call it up right away after being told about it, because the Disney-owned station has an in-house Internet system with extensive antiporno firewalls, preventing him from reaching the do-your-own-Web-page site that was part of the Geocities network.

We eventually faxed him a copy.

Hunt was out of town and unreachable, so Bouyer could not confirm she had written the "Dear Angel" letter. He said he couldn't comment on the matter until he had talked with her.

Working-Class Hero

Boy, was it big TV news that the NFL awarded Houston an expansion franchise. Half-hour special reports; team coverage out the wazoo; many, many minutes devoted to wondering what the name of the new team should be.

Two favorite moments: A reader says she was watching the Today show when KPRC interrupted for "Breaking News!" to announce breathlessly that Houston had gotten one step closer to getting a team. Not that it had gottenthe team, but that it had taken an incremental step in the process. The piece interrupted a network report on the London train crash that killed 70 people, but hey -- how many of them were football fans?

KPRC's Ed Laskos provided the other moment. Twice we saw his piece showing franchise owner Bob McNair arriving on a private jet at Hobby Airport. As Laskos enthused about "the hero's welcome" McNair got, video showed three lonely maintenance workers on the tarmac, waving as the hero's car drove by. Well, he didn't say it was a big hero's welcome.

Determined as ever to get to the bottom of the story, Laskos energetically quizzed one of the workers about his feelings on the billionaire. "Are you proud of him?" he asked.

Yes, as it turns out, the guy on the tarmac was indeed proud of the job done by the energy magnate.

All About Us

The Houston Chroniclesure has been full of itself lately.

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