UPDATE: Detectives say Jeffrey Maxwell has confessed to stringing up his victim on a homemade deer-skinning rack, then lifting her into the air to rape her. Meanwhile, the family of another missing woman fears Maxwell may have taken her. See update after the jump…
On March 1, an unnamed 62-year-old went missing from her home in Parker
County, Texas. Two days later, her house mysteriously burned to the
ground. At first, police had no idea what happened to the woman, who
they described as a recluse who rarely left her home.
Then neighbors tipped them off to Jeffrey Allan Maxwell.
He used to live across the street from the woman, and badly wanted a relationship with her. But he was a crude, coarse man often described as a pervert, the kind who apparently shot dogs for fun. The woman wanted no part of him.
Neighbors had seen a blue car the night of the fire. Maxwell also drove a blue car. So detectives went to his home in Corsicana, Texas, with a warrant to search the car.
Amelia Smith also disappeared in 2000. That same night, her home and car were burned in a suspicious fire.
While known as a creep elsewhere, Maxwell had reinvented himself in Corsicana. He was the vice president of the Kiwanis Club and frequently got his picture in the paper for the charity’s good deeds. He was about to become president.
When he met detectives outside his home, he said he knew nothing about the missing woman. But then the woman ran from the home, screaming “I’m here! I’m here!” Inside, police would find what they later called a house of horrors.
Maxwell had kidnapped the woman on March 1 at gunpoint, beating her with a rolling pin so she’d get into his car. He’d then taken her to a secret room in his home, were she was bound, raped and tortured.
He had a bed equipped with chains and leather restraints. There were also sexual devices and a winch used to string up animals. Maxwell confessed to raping and kidnapping the woman, but claims someone else paid him to make her go away. He just wouldn’t say who.
Yet police are now investigating whether this is the third woman Maxwell’s abducted. In 2000, 51-year-old Amelia Smith also disappeared near Azle, Texas. That same night, her home and car were burned in a suspicious fire.
Police further believe Maxwell killed his wife 19 years ago.
Martha Martinez Maxwell first drew the attention of detectives in 1987, when she was found along a road in Oklahoma with her throat slit. All she remembered was that her husband had duct-taped and tortured her in a bedroom of their home, then drugged her.
Maxwell was arrested at the time. But instead of testifying, Martha took their son and fled to Mexico. Maxwell kept sending her letters, urging her to come home. She relented and returned to him, then dropped her charges against him.
Five years later, she simply disappeared. He claimed she ran away.
Maxwell’s first wife also told detectives that he’d molested their daughter. But she changed her name and fled the state shortly after that admission.
Police always believed that Maxwell had killed Martha. And it remains to be seen why they didn’t press charges for attempted murder after he slit her throat.
But since he’s now charged with kidnapping and rape — crimes that don’t play well in rural Texas — he’ll soon be facing the punishment he’s long avoided.
He’s apparently confessed to Texas Rangers that he kidnapped the woman at gunpoint, then drove her 100 miles to his home in Corsicana. He kept her in his garage, where he had a homemade deer-skinning rack. It allowed him to string the woman up and hoist her off the ground so he could rape her.
The woman is now staying in a shelter for battered women.
Meanwhile, the family of 19-year-old Shonda Townsend is worried that Maxwell may have kidnapped her as well. She disappeared in July near her home in Gibtown. Before she went missing, she sent a text saying she was minutes from home. But she never showed up.
Her car was later found outside a home suspected of drug activity. It had been broken into and the stereo was stolen, but there was no sign of Shonda.
Relatives say there’s no way she’d simply take off without her 2-year-old son. Maxwell’s latest victim lived only 15 minutes away from Townsend.
See our last story from the Cold Case file: Carlina White Abduction: A Miracle Reunion Falls Apart in a Beef Over Money.