Catching Killers season 3 covers the investigations of the Railroad Killer, New York’s Zodiac Killer, the Olympic Bomber, and the DC Sniper. The docuseries is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Episode 1: End of the Line: The Railroad Killer
In Hughes Springs, Texas, in 1998, Randy Kennedy, Chief of Police, receives a call about a woman named Leafie who hasn’t shown up to visit her sister.
Kennedy goes to her house and, upon investigating, discovers the body of Leafie, covered in a blanket. She has been beaten to death with a blunt instrument. In the bathroom, her purse is left with her identification and her wallet laid out on top.
While Kennedy wonders who could have killed Leafie, who never had enemies, all he can find as evidence at her home are the fingerprints of the killer’s palms on the window.
Across the window, he sees the railroad. Since no one in the community would do this to her, Kennedy suspected it is an outsider. While Kennedy fails to find a fingerprint match, a similar case, 250 miles away from Hughes Springs, in West University Place, gives him what he needs.
The fingerprints at the crime scene of West University Place are identified as those of Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, a Mexican national who has a history of trespassing and getting kicked off trains. He has been arrested many times all over the state. The victims the cops are investigating also happen to have homes near railroad tracks.
The cops don’t have the permanent address of the suspect. They needed somebody who can run leads across the state, so they enlisted the help of the Texas Rangers.
While the Texas Rangers continued their investigation, more cases with similar MO surfaced, and they soon realized that they have a serial killer on their hands, and soon the FBI got involved.
The FBI and the Texas Rangers joined hands, and the former decided to use the media to track Rafael down. The FBI and the Texas Rangers discover more such cases and start believing that these murders aren’t stopping anytime soon, which turns out to be true.
Rafael now knows that people are looking for him, and he is leaving them clues. He likes being the Railroad Killer. The FBI and the Texas Rangers are left disappointed when they learn that the suspect was detained weeks ago by immigration officers. Unfortunately, he was let go because of a computer failure.
The agents didn’t know he is the Railroad Killer. Rafael soon joins the list of the FBI’s top ten most wanted fugitives.
The officials take the help of television to spread the word, and through America’s Most Wanted, they get in touch with Rafael’s cousin and then his sister, Manuela.
The FBI and the Texas Rangers earn Manuela’s trust. When Manuela comes into contact with Rafael, she informs the officers that he is tired and weary and wants to give up. Rafael surrenders at the El Paso border.
Rafael was linked to nine murders at the time of his arrest and confessed to many more. He was convicted of Capital Murder and executed by lethal injection in June 2006.
Episode 2: Night Terror: New York Zodiac Killer
In May 1990, a copycat of the Zodiac Killer surfaced in New York. This Zodiac Killer was initially dubbed the Zodiac Shooter, as most of his victims survived.
He was suspected to be the same killer who taunted the cops in the late 1960s. Much like the Zodiac Killer, he left notes near his victims. However, the detectives from San Francisco confirmed that this is a copycat killer, as his handwriting doesn’t match the Zodiac Killer’s.
The Zodiac Shooter had already targeted three individuals of different Zodiac Signs. The cops needed to stop him before he got to the others.
The cops get help from a team that looked into witchcraft and astrology. They identified the pattern of the killer and the cycle he is following and they managed to figure out when he will attack his next target.
The prediction comes true, as it is reported that the killer shot somebody in Central Park. The cops fail to capture him again. So far, they only knew about the time he is going to attack. They plan to figure out the exact location next time.
Amidst all of this, New York’s Zodiac Shooter becomes the Zodiac Killer as one of his targets dies in the hospital. The cops go all out to dig deep into understanding the psychology of this killer.
However, New York’s Zodiac Killer disappeared as the cops got close to him. The first task force working on this case disbanded in November 1990.
In 1994, the New York Post received a letter from someone identifying themselves as Zodiac. The investigation reopened, and Detective Joe Herbert served as the investigating officer. He looked into the murders that Zodiac is taking credit for.
The cops failed to connect the second series of attacks to the first series. The NYPD identified that they are dealing with the same killer, but his MO has changed. He began using maritime flags in his notes instead of Zodiac Signs and pie charts.
The NYPD tried to match the fingerprint found on the note of one of Zodiac’s last victims with the fingerprint of every other person with a criminal history that lives in the area where Zodiac attacked his victims. The cops still failed to find a match.
The case once again became a cold one, and the second task force disbanded. Fortunately, Detective Joe Herbert later catches the Zodiac Killer for a completely different crime.
Herbert arrested a man named Heriberto Seda, also known as Eddie, for shooting his sister and holding her boyfriend hostage. When Herbert read Eddie’s confession letter, he identified his handwriting as New York’s Zodiac’s.
Eventually, Eddie admitted to being New York’s Zodiac Killer. Eddie was convicted of three counts of murder and six attempted murders. He was sentenced to 232 years of imprisonment.
Episode 3: Manhunt: The Olympic Park Bomber
On July 27, 1996, in Atlanta, Georgia, the event of the 26th Olympic Games at Centennial Park faces the wrath of a bomb explosion. Only two individuals died during the event.
The games carried on, but there was a heightened sense of awareness. While the officials struggled to find a suspect, another bombing took place in Sandy Springs at an abortion clinic. A second bombing takes place at the same location, with officials present.
Five weeks later, there is another bombing at a lesbian club called the Otherside. The FBI figured out that all of these bombings are orchestrated by the same person through a steel plate that was found in all of these bombs.
A year later, another bombing takes place in Birmingham that targets a clinic. The FBI find their first breakthrough here. A university student saw a man running away from the scene. He manages to note down his vehicle’s number and hand it to the FBI.
The FBI identify the owner of this vehicle as a man named Eric Rudolph. In the process of tracking Eric down, the FBI got in touch with Eric’s family members and learned that Eric is a loner who has anti-government issues.
Eric grew up under Christian influence and was anti-gay and anti-abortion. Eric was also in the military and was an explosion specialist, which explains how he has been so good at making bombs.
A news leak saw the US Attorney go ahead and hold a press conference against Eric, who got alerted. He slipped from the hands of the FBI as they got closer to him in the woods of North Carolina.
A team full of officers searched for Eric in the woods. For the next few years, they failed to find him. Eric’s name got added to the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. In 2003, in Murphy, North Carolina, a rookie cop arrests a man who resembles Eric Rudolph, and it turns out it is Eric.
For five years, Eric eluded the army of federal investigators but got caught by a rookie officer. Chances are that Eric had some help, and he did have supporters of his own.
In order to avoid the death penalty, Eric gave up the location of the bombs he had buried. With that, the FBI found more concrete evidence against him. Eric Rudolph was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences for two murders and injuring over 120 people.
Episode 4: Trained to Kill: The DC Sniper
In October 2003, Washington, D.C., faces several sniper attacks. Random people are targeted and killed. Witnesses from two of the locations where the attacks took place saw a white box truck present nearby.
The cops eventually realized that they can’t solve this case without the media, so they show the pictures of the white box truck to the people and ask for their help.
Meanwhile, the shooters start targeting people in different areas. They even shoot a kid at school. The shooters eventually make contact with the cops by leaving a note at a location.
The shooters demanded $10 million be placed in a bank account with an ATM card. The letter claimed that they had tried to contact the cops before.
The cops looked into it, and it turns out that they did contact an officer. They had told that officer that they were involved in a shooting, robbery, and murder that occurred in Alabama.
A piece of evidence recovered from Alabama gave the officers fingerprints that led them to 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo. Looking into Malvo also led the cops to the man he is with, as in John Allen Muhammad.
The cops soon tracked down a vehicle registered under Muhammad’s name and caught both of them. The cops discovered a hole in the trunk of their car, which they may have used to shoot, and a sniper rifle too.
John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo killed 17 people and wounded 10 others. Malvo was sentenced to life without parole, while Muhammad was convicted of Captial Murder and was executed in 2009.