By Angela K. Brown
WEATHERFORD — A Texas woman who prosecutors say was tortured for 12 days seemed to be in shock as she spoke to authorities following her rescue, initially defending the man accused of hanging her from a deer-skinning device and chaining her to a bed, according to a recording of the interview played at his trial Tuesday.
The woman is heard telling an investigator that Jeffrey Allan Maxwell, her former neighbor, told her he had been hired to kill her. During the rambling interview after she was found last March, she also said some of her relatives wanted to harm her over a property dispute and urged the investigator to arrest them.
Maxwell, 59, is accused of abducting the woman from her rural home, driving to his house in Corsicana and holding her captive for nearly two weeks. Maxwell is charged with aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. If convicted, he would face up to life in prison.
Testimony is expected to resume Wednesday. The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
In the audio recording, an investigator repeatedly yet gently questions the 62-year-old woman before she said Maxwell hit her with a rolling pin and tied her up March 1 inside her Parker County home.
She said Maxwell was mad when they arrived at his home, and he hit her with a whip and put her wrists in some type of device that hoisted her off the ground. Authorities have said it was Maxwell’s homemade device for skinning deer, and photographs shown to the jury depict a long, thin wooden board with hooks attached. A cable was attached to the garage ceiling.
“I don’t know what it is but he pulled me up in the air,” the woman is heard saying on the audiotape. “It scared me to death.”
She also said Maxwell told her his fingerprints were all over her house so he would have to torch it — which authorities say he did two days later.
Sgt. Ricky Montgomery, a Parker County sheriff’s investigator, told jurors that authorities conducted a massive ground search after fire officials didn’t find the woman’s body in the rubble of her burned home near Weatherford, which is about 60 miles west of Dallas.
He said authorities had few leads until a neighbor reported seeing an unfamiliar blue car drive by twice on the day of the fire. Investigators later found out that Maxwell had a blue car and once lived in that area.
When authorities went to Corsicana on March 12, Maxwell answered the door and said he was alone — but then the woman ran out and said, “I’m here! I’m here!” Montgomery testified. She had a broken arm, head injury and multiple bruises, an emergency room doctor testified.
Earlier Tuesday during opening statements, prosecutor Kathleen Catania said the woman had been friendly with Maxwell several years ago but told him to stay off her property when he said he wanted to be romantically involved.
Defense attorneys declined to make an opening statement Tuesday, though they questioned Montgomery about whether authorities took photographs and collected evidence at Maxwell’s house before proper search warrants were obtained.
Authorities had a search warrant only for Maxwell’s blue car when they first arrived at his house, but Montgomery said law enforcement officers went inside after the woman ran out to make sure nobody else was being harmed or was a threat. Evidence was seized after another search warrant was obtained for the house the next day, Montgomery testified.