Texas Man Charged In Torture Case Going On Trial

Published February 14, 2012 8:18AM (EST)

WEATHERFORD, Texas (AP) — Nearly a year after authorities rescued a missing North Texas woman from a home described by one sheriff as a "house of horrors" where a deer-skinning rack allegedly had been used as a torture device, her former neighbor is going on trial.

Jeffrey Allan Maxwell, 59, is charged with aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. Opening statements were to start Tuesday, a day after a jury was selected. Maxwell, who has remained jailed in Parker County in lieu of $500,000 bail, faces up to life in prison if convicted.

Maxwell is accused of abducting the woman at gunpoint from her rural Parker County home March 1 and driving to his house about 100 miles away in Corsicana, then later setting her house on fire in an attempt to destroy evidence.

Parker County authorities were baffled about her disappearance after the blaze and began a desperate search for her. Tips led to Maxwell, whose romantic interest in the woman had been spurned years earlier. She previously complained to friends that he harassed her, authorities said.

Maxwell was arrested March 12 at his house, and the woman was rescued. Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler described it as a "house of horrors."

Maxwell will not use an insanity defense and is competent to stand trial, his defense attorneys said at a court hearing last month.

State District Judge Trey Loftin also previously denied a defense motion to suppress Maxwell's statements to law enforcement authorities.

Defense attorneys have said Maxwell had asked for a lawyer while being questioned shortly after his arrest. But Loftin said Maxwell gave his statements voluntarily and requested an attorney only when authorities asked if anyone else had helped him.

According to documents, Maxwell told an investigator that after he took the woman back to his house, he "strung her up" in his garage on a homemade rack used for skinning deer.

By Salon Staff

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