Texas Ranger Drew Carter was fishing off Houston on Sunday, July 11, when his cell phone rang. Manuela Maturino Karkiewicz, half sister of the most wanted man in America, wanted to talk. Thus began the negotiations that concluded two days later with the surrender of Rafael Resendez Ramirez, alleged to be the Railroad Killer, whose serial murders—numbering at least eight—have spread terror from the Rio Grande to Illinois.

Ramirez, 39, who had been hiding out in his native Mexico, was escorted across the Zaragosa Bridge into Ysleta, Texas, by his half brother, Mexican customs agent Florentino Maturino Ramirez. "Carter took Ramirez's extended hand, shook it and in the same motion handcuffed it," says the Department of Public Safety's Mike Cox. With that, a frenzied six-week manhunt that had consumed the FBI, the INS and police across the country came to an end. Says Fran Root, assistant police chief in Lexington, Ky., where college student Christopher Maier, 21, was killed near a railway line: "This is as successful a conclusion as something like this could come to."

Why Ramirez, who could face the death penalty, turned himself in was not clear. Authorities said his relatives, who could be eligible for a $125,000 reward, were promised only that Ramirez would be kept safe, seen by psychiatrists and allowed visits. Said FBI task force chief Don Clark: "He is captured and in jail, and that's all that matters."

For the families of the victims, though, there is small consolation. "Maybe I can do better now," says Anna Belle Mohr, whose son Skip Sirnic, 46, and his wife, Karen, 47, were slain in Weimar, Texas. "None of this will bring our children back."