WEATHERFORD, Texas – A Texas man who abducted his former neighbor and tortured the woman while holding her captive for nearly two weeks was convicted Tuesday.
Jeffrey Allan Maxwell, 59, faces up to life in prison after being found guilty of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. Jurors, who took less than an hour to convict Maxwell, will hear more evidence during the trial's punishment phase set to begin Wednesday.
After the judge read the verdict, the victim shared hugs with some people in the courtroom and later smiled. She declined comment.
She testified last week that Maxwell abducted her from her rural home at gunpoint March 1 after beating her in the face and shackling her hands and legs. Then he drove 100 miles away to his Corsicana house, 50 miles south of Dallas. She was rescued 12 days later when authorities went to question him about her disappearance after her house burned down.
The woman told jurors that he whipped her and sexually assaulted her on a deer-skinning device in his garage and that she endured several more assaults as she was held captive for 12 days. She testified that he kept her chained to a bed and gagged during the first several days, and one day he locked her in a wooden box when he left to run errands.
She said Maxwell got sick after she'd been there about eight days, so he stopped the assaults and then left her unrestrained during the day when they were in the same room.
"What this defendant, Jeff Maxwell, did is monstrous. It is frankly unimaginable and it's inhuman, and it's time to hold him accountable," Parker County prosecutor Jeff Swain told jurors during closing arguments, adding that DNA evidence found on items at Maxwell's house supported the victim's account.
The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.
But defense attorneys, who presented no evidence during the trial, had questioned the woman's credibility, reminding jurors that she initially said Maxwell was her friend and didn't want him arrested when she ran out of his house March 12, shocking authorities who had gone there to question Maxwell about her disappearance. The woman earlier told jurors that during her initial interview with authorities, she was trying to keep her promise not to implicate Maxwell -- made when she feared for her life -- and that he also had convinced her that someone had hired him to kill her.
Defense attorneys also said authorities took pictures of the items in Maxwell's home before obtaining a search warrant, and that an investigator violated the law by telling him that telling his side of the story would help him. They urged jurors to disregard whips, blood-stained sheets and other evidence, as well as his recorded interviews.
"You're probably not going to want to do that, but the law is the law," defense attorney Richard Alley told jurors, later adding that jurors could put whatever "twist" on the case they wanted. "Is this case disturbing? Yes -- on multiple levels, whether it involves criminal activity or not."
During several hours of questioning, Maxwell eventually gives details of the kidnapping and describes the sexual assault on the device, which he says he made for cleaning hogs and deer. He says he chained the woman to the bed every night but also let her read the Bible. He is heard telling the investigator that he never planned to kill her and thought of letting her go after her bruises healed.
"I got myself into something I couldn't figure out how to get out of," he tells the investigator.
He says he had sexual fantasies about bondage but never gives a reason for the abduction and assaults. At one point he blames his "stupidity" and another time tells investigators he doesn't "know all the whys" when asked what could have led him -- then the vice president of the Kiwanis Club in Corsicana -- down this path. When later asked if he needs help, he says, "I imagine I do. Yes."
Maxwell and the woman, now 63, were neighbors in a rural Parker County town about 70 miles west of Dallas before he moved seven years ago. The woman testified that she had been friendly toward him but told him to stay away after he started coming on too strong.