Texas man gets life in prison in torture case
WEATHERFORD, Texas (AP) — A Texas man who kidnapped his former neighbor and tortured her while holding her captive nearly two weeks was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison.
Jeffrey Allan Maxwell, 59, will be eligible for parole after serving 60 years because the judge ordered him to serve two of his three life sentences consecutively. The same jury convicted Maxwell a day earlier of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. He faced a minimum sentence of probation.
After abducting his ex-neighbor last March, he drove 100 miles away to his Corsicana home, 50 miles south of Dallas. Then he whipped and sexually assaulted her on a deer-skinning device. He assaulted her on his bed, where he kept her chained and gagged during most of the ordeal.
She was rescued when authorities went to question him about her disappearance after her house near Weatherford, about 70 miles west of Dallas, burned down.
"I want you to know there is a God, and he answered my prayers to spare my life," the victim, Lois Pearson, said in court, reading from a statement she prepared as several jurors wiped away tears. "It's a miracle that I am alive."
The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual assault. But with the trial over, Pearson, 63, said she wanted her identity revealed to share her story of survival.
After the sentencing, she told news reporters that she was relieved Maxwell received the maximum sentence. She said she worried he would try to kill her if he ever got out of prison.
State District Judge Trey Loftin told Maxwell that he had preyed on the "least, lost, little and last."
During closing arguments, Parker County prosecutor Kathleen Catania told jurors that Maxwell previously had not been convicted of a felony and was eligible for probation, but "you don't get a free pass your first go-around." As she walked in front of jurors and held up items seized from his home, she said Maxwell collected locks, restraints, handcuffs, pepper spray, sex toys, whips, gags, pornography with bondage and rape scenes — and women's underwear.
Earlier Wednesday, jurors were shown authorities' recorded interviews with Maxwell in which he says he stole panties from the daughters of several girlfriends without their knowledge about 30 or 40 times. He initially tells the investigator they were "souvenirs" from ex-girlfriends.
"That's what this defendant feeds off of. He takes the most intimate piece of apparel ... without consent," Catania told jurors. "This defendant is what gives people nightmares. ... He is pure and unadulterated evil as he sits there."
Prosecutor Jeff Swain said Maxwell has shown a pattern of acting on his sexual fantasies by abusing women.
But defense attorney James Wilson said if jurors sentenced Maxwell to probation, he would be ordered to register as a sex offender, could be forced to undergo counseling and might be required to wear an ankle monitor.
"What he did to her was horrible at first and then it started tapering off. Why? I don't know," Wilson told jurors. "... Only y'all can figure out what's in his heart of hearts."
Defense attorneys called no witnesses during the entire trial. They declined to comment after the sentencing.
Pearson testified during the trial's penalty phase earlier Wednesday, saying she still has problems with her shoulder since her arm was fractured. That happened after Maxwell chained her wrists to the device in his garage and hoisted her off the ground. Pearson also said she lost three cats and irreplaceable belongings in the fire and was trying to forgive Maxwell.
The deeply religious woman has never been married and said she had no sexual experiences before the ordeal.
"I wanted to die as a virgin. He robbed me of that," she told jurors.
In another recorded interview with authorities after his arrest, Maxwell tells the investigator that was the first time he had done anything like that "to a complete stranger," later saying he had tried bondage with his second wife and even used a stun gun on her.
Two women told jurors that Maxwell molested them when they were children. Another woman testified that Maxwell raped her nearly 20 years ago after going to her house unexpectedly. She said she didn't want to go to court but filed a police report so there would be a record, in case Maxwell was ever arrested in another case.