HUNTSVILLE, Texas – For about a month, Joshua Maxwell and Tessie McFarland crisscrossed the country in a deadly crime spree.
They kicked things off by robbing an auto mechanic in their home state of Indiana. His bound and burned body was found stuffed in the trunk of his car. Both were initially charged with murdering him, but only Maxwell was convicted of that charge.
About a month later, the couple robbed and killed an off-duty sheriff's officer in San Antonio in similar fashion, prosecutors said. His bound, blindfolded body was found behind a strip mall.
The hunt for the couple ended after a shootout with police in San Francisco.
On Thursday, Maxwell was set to be executed in Huntsville for the sheriff's officer's murder. The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to review his case after a federal appeals court rejected his attorneys' attempts to get his sentence overturned by arguing that the jurors were given improper instructions.
Maxwell had no court appeals pending Wednesday and had not requested clemency from the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole. The 31-year-old would be the fourth prisoner executed this year in the nation's busiest capital punishment state. Two other inmates are set for lethal injection this month.
Prosecutors initially charged Maxwell and McFarland, a former stripper, with killing 45-year-old Robby Bott of Mooresville, Ind., in September 2000 after a night out. Authorities said the couple forced the FedEx mechanic to use his credit card to buy them merchandise, and that Bott had been tied him up, strangled, shot, and stuffed in the trunk of his car before it was set on fire.
The couple, who were known as "Mo" and "Trina," went to Florida and then to San Antonio, where they spent about two weeks before hightailing to California.
While in Texas, the couple met up with 40-year-old Randy Lopes, an off-duty sergeant with the Bexar County Sheriff's Department. Authorities said similar to Bott's slaying, the couple forced Lopes to use his credit card for purchases and his ATM card to withdraw money.
Maxwell told police he lured Lopes by placing a personal ad with a telephone dating service, saying he wanted to meet gay or bisexual men willing to have sex while his wife watched.
At a hearing before his capital murder trial, two Bexar County Jail officers testified Maxwell told them Lopes, who long had worked at the jail, begged for his life before he was shot. According to the testimony, Maxwell said he told Lopes to shut up and said to him: "I am going to kill you anyway."
Five days after Lopes' body was found behind a San Antonio strip mall, authorities caught up with the couple in San Francisco. Maxwell was driving Lopes' stolen Chevy pickup and fled when police pulled him over for running a red light.
The couple were arrested after a shootout and car chase through the city's downtown.
McFarland was wounded during the chase. Lopes' credit card, badge and service weapon were recovered from the truck, along with a Chinese-made 9 mm pistol determined to be the gun used to fatally shoot Lopes in the top of the head.
In news reports of the time, the couple were compared to the main characters in the 1994 film "Natural Born Killers," who go on a murderous road trip.
"I think they were just on a roll," said Mary Nelda Valadez, a former Bexar County assistant district attorney who helped prosecute Maxwell for Lopes' murder. "They wanted to have this lifestyle, I guess, wandering their lives together.
"They wanted to be cool, but you've still got to eat. You've got to do it somehow and robbing people is mostly how they were going to do it," Valadez said.
Maxwell was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in Lopes' killing. He also was convicted of murder, felony confinement, arson and theft in Bott's slaying, and was sentenced to 91 years in prison.
McFarland pleaded guilty to capital murder in Lopes' slaying and received a life prison sentence. She was initially charged with murder, criminal confinement, arson and theft in Bott's killing, but pleaded guilty to confinement and arson as part of an agreement with prosecutors and was sentenced to a total of 30 years in prison, said Marion County prosecutors' office spokesman Mario Massillamany.
Authorities had some 12 hours of video Maxwell made with detectives in which he talked in detail about the spree. Prosecutors said they also had a video Maxwell himself made in a bathroom during the cross-country trip, confessing to the crimes and trying to absolve McFarland.
At least 10 Texas inmates are scheduled for execution in the coming months. Next up is Hank Skinner, 47, who is scheduled to die March 24 for a triple slaying in Pampa on New Year's Eve in 1993.