Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Woman's Torturous Ordeal at the Hands of Jeffrey Maxwell

Maxwell in Court

Jeffrey Maxwell booking photo
Jeffrey Maxwell booking photo

On February 14, 2012, the trial of Jeffrey Maxwell began in the 43rd District Court in Weatherford, Texas. Maxwell's attorneys decided they would not plead insanity in his defense but entered a "not guilty" plea nonetheless. The defense certainly had an uphill climb facing overwhelming evidence, the defendant's statements to police, and the live testimony of the victim. In fact, the defense did not even put on an opening statement. In her opening statement, prosecutor Kathleen Catania vividly described the harrowing ordeal, how Maxwell gagged his victim "and for days he sexually abuses her with devices."

When Lois Pearson took the stand to give dramatic and damning testimony about her ordeal, Jeffrey Maxwell made such exaggerated facial expressions that he was ordered to stop by Judge Trey Loftin. The prosecution called the victim and various members of law enforcement to testify about the evidence they collected and how DNA from both the victim and defendant were found on chains, handcuffs, and whips found in the Maxwell home. Prosecutors also entered hours of taped interviews Maxwell gave to authorities after his arrest — in those talks, he admitted to the kidnapping and sexual torture as part of his "fantasy", but gave no reason for the attack.

The defense would put on no case at all — instead relying on cross-examination of witnesses to poke holes in the State's case. In their closing argument, the defense speculated as to the victim's credibility. Defense attorney Richard Alley said: "She had marks, wounds, bruises... Her clothes weren't torn. I don't know what happened there. Is this case disturbing? Yes, on multiple levels."

At roughly 4 p.m. on February 21, 2012, the jury who would decide Jeffrey Maxwell's fate finally the case and retreated to their deliberation room. Soon after, they asked to see evidence photographs of the bruised victim, copies of the lab results, and three of the sex toys found at the Maxwell home. After just 52 minutes of deliberation, the panel reached a unanimous verdict.

The parties and spectators — including Lois Pearson herself — reassembled in the courtroom to hear the verdict. It was a straight win for the prosecution: Jeffrey Maxwell was convicted on both counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of aggravated kidnapping. The sentencing phase would begin the next day.

Sentencing and a Twist

Martha Martinez Maxwell
Martha Martinez Maxwell

In the punishment phase, prosecutors called more sexual victims of Jeffrey Maxwell to illustrate his prior bad acts to the jury. One woman said Maxwell raped her in 1995, but she never called police. Another two women said they had been molested by Maxwell when they were young girls, but Maxwell had never been charged. Lois Pearson retook the stand to tell jurors "I wanted to die as a virgin. He robbed me of that." She said she is still trying to forgive Maxwell, even though she remains in physical pain from all the abuse she suffered a year earlier at the defendant's hands. Defense attorneys reported that they could find no one — not even his two sons — to speak on Jeffrey Maxwell's behalf, but nonetheless implored the jury to consider lesser punishments citing the defendant's poor health (he suffers from a heart condition and diabetes).

When it came time for the jury to decide Maxwell's punishment, they once again meted out the most severe decision they could in less than an hour. The jury recommended Maxwell receive the maximum sentence: life imprisonment, with two of the sentences running consecutively. Maxwell must serve 60 years in prison before he could be eligible for parole. At age 59, it is exceedingly likely he will never step foot outside a prison ever again. After the trial, Lois Pearson spoke to reporters and allowed her name to be disclosed — until this point the media had not identified the sexual abuse victim.

Although it was not entered into evidence at any point in Maxwell's case, investigators learned that he had been a person of interest in a woman's disappearance decades prior. Jeffrey's ex-wife Martha Martinez Maxwell has been missing since 1992. In 1987, five years before she went missing, then 36-year-old Martha Maxwell was kidnapped, beaten and found in Oklahoma with her throat cut. Jeff Maxwell was suspected of the kidnapping, but a Tarrant County grand jury did not hand down an indictment. Martha Maxwell disappeared in 1992. In 1995, Jeff Maxwell successfully sought a divorce from the vanished woman, citing her disappearance. Fort Worth police have never closed the file on that missing persons case.

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