By People Staff
August 02, 1999 12:00 PM

The Railroad Killer

Hunt him, convict him, hang him!!! No more taxpayers’ money to house convicted murderers. All illegal immigrants sent back to their own countries. We need a little more of the Old West attitude to do justice. Sick to death reading about repeat offenders and the victims they leave behind.

Lisa Dawson, Centereach, N.Y.

I am upset by your article on Rafael Resendez-Ramirez because the writer seemed to be characterizing the nation as overreacting to the killings. Okay, so the person who shot his neighbor went overboard, but the others? Who are these people supposed to look to for protection when the FBI cared so little that the suspect was released just days before more killings occurred? Ramirez has surrendered, but are we really supposed to trust the justice system now? I have a horrible fear that this man will get off for some reason or that he will not be punished fully for the crimes.

Traci LaFoy, League City, Texas

I am writing as a brother-in-law of Dr. Claudia Benton, who was shown on your cover with her [suspected] murderer, Rafael Resendez-Ramirez. I would like to thank you for showing his face, because I believe that a lot of coverage was the key to catching him. But I would like to ask that PEOPLE also consider a story on Claudia. I do not think I can fully tell all the good that was in this person’s heart. Born in Peru, she was a wife to a husband who has worked years in Third World countries, mother to 12-year-old twin daughters and a friend to all. She was a person who took time to sit and talk with a 7-year-old who was feeling forgotten. She took in a young woman who had had a problem in her life, giving her a home and a shoulder to lean on. She was a pediatric neurologist who dedicated her life to helping people in any way she could, who left behind many children and parents who had a great belief in her. She poured her heart into people, only to have her life wasted by a person who should not be considered a human being. Why is it that all the articles I have seen list the victims only as names but tell all about the suspected killer’s life and story?

John Benton, Chandler, Ariz.

I used to wonder why people would want to kill people to seek fame. Now I know. In our country today, if you murder six to eight people, you find yourself on the cover of PEOPLE.

Shelby Nelson, Virginia Beach, Va.

Leon Botstein

As a high school biology teacher in Colorado, I too was horrified by the tragedy at Columbine High School. However, unlike Dr. Botstein, I do not think the answer is the abolishment of the American system of secondary education. What particularly irks me about his negativism regarding public high schools is that a) he has never taught at the high school level; b) he makes some strong assertions that the majority of teachers are not trained in their subject matter; c) he supposes that all high school environments promote passive learning; and d) he assumes that all students could prosper at 16 in a university setting. I have news for the doctor: Not everyone is as “gifted” academically and socially as he was at 16. High schools offer course options for all ability levels, opportunities to explore a variety of extracurricular arenas and a nurturing place for growth. Until Dr. Botstein is willing to offer some positive options, I have no use for his radical views.

Cyndy Miller-Hughes, Loveland, Colo.

As a secondary teacher, I find it amazing that people like Mr. Botstein who sit in an ivory tower all day can decide what I as a teacher need to do to be a better educator. People like Mr. Botstein who think they know everything should not speak unless they have a credible, logical solution to the problem, which he does not. He needs to come down from that tower and walk a day in my shoes.

Pat Packard, Edwardsville, Ill.

This man is a genius! I remember that, as a high school senior, the only thing I wanted was o-u-t! On graduation day, when all the clique members were sobbing their hearts out because high school was over, I was pumped because I knew my life was beginning then. Nearly 15 years later, I’ve had some great times, I’ve also had some rough times, but I wouldn’t trade even the roughest to be back in high school!

B. Taylor, Cloverdale, Ind.

What is this guy talking about? I’m 17 and entering my senior year in the fall. High school has been the best part of my life. I agree that cliques are prevalent, but I have learned to get past them. Botstein is saying that by the age of 16 kids should be making the same life-altering decisions that 18-year-olds make. What a bunch of bull!

Justin Elkin, Nekoosa, Wis.

Finally, a thought process that could eliminate the waste of our young. Brilliant! When I was 16 and still in high school, I enrolled in a community college. Within a year I gradually quit going to my high school classes but continued, with enthusiasm, in my college classes. I never finished high school, and no one has ever asked for my high school diploma. I do, however, sport an M.B.A. and a J.D. on my wall.

T. Evans, Calabasas, Calif.

This article was unrealistic and ludicrous. Anyone who seriously thinks we can solve our problems by simply releasing teenagers into the world a couple of years earlier obviously has no concept of the mind-set of today’s teens. We are 15, going into grade 11, and neither of us could imagine going out into the real world now. The segregations and cliques that occur in high schools are no greater than the ones formed in the rest of society. We are just grateful that if Botstein’s solution should ever come-into effect, we will already be finished school.

Julia Dutove and Jodi Prediger Grande Prairie, Alta.

While many of today’s educators would consider some of Leon Botstein’s thoughts heresy, I have to agree that students today are much more advanced in many areas than students were when our current school systems were established. If we expect to continue to challenge and truly teach these children, we have to change our methods to keep pace with the ever-advancing technology and individual needs of our students. We also have to realize that not every student is meant to go to college, and we have to offer something to those who aren’t destined for higher education in order for them to want to succeed, no matter which road they take.

Nancy Coughlin, Philadelphia

As a 16-year-old I have experienced first-hand the horrors of high school today—not just socially but academically. One example: My English class this year consisted largely of watching the movie Julius Caesar (not reading the play), writing a couple of essays and taking one or two tests. And my school has been rated No. 1 in Niagara County. I hope someday, because of people like Mr. Botstein, children will not have to suffer through the circus we call high school.

Kelly D. Brown, Lockport, N.Y.

Phil Mickelson

Congratulations to Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy, on the birth of their daughter. I asked my husband if he would have had the same plan Phil did—to leave the golf tournament had I gone into labor—and my husband answered, “Honey, I love you, but this is the U.S. Open!” Amy, you are one lucky lady!

Debbie Otte, Aurora, Colo.

Nina Akamu

The article on Leonardo da Vinci’s bronze horse gave credit to both Charles Dent and to Nina Akamu, who sculpted the horse. What you failed to mention is that this project would not have been completed without the generosity of Frederik Meijer, CEO of a mid western chain of stores. To date he has donated $2.5 million, making the completion of the horse possible and also allowing an identical horse to be made, which will be placed at the Frederik Meijer Botanical Gardens in Grand Rapids this October. Fred Meijer is an extremely kind and generous man who has never been one to seek the limelight, but he deserves a thank you.

Elizabeth Baron, Grandville, Mich.