WEATHERFORD, Texas (AP) — When her legs were chained to a bed, as she was locked in a nearly airtight wooden box, and while she was tortured on a deer-skinning device, a Texas woman was terrified her former neighbor would kill her — but says she never stopped praying.
"I prayed all the time: silently, mentally," the woman testified Wednesday during the trial of Jeffrey Allan Maxwell, 59, who faces up to life in prison if convicted of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault.
During the 12 days she was held captive, she said, one of her repeated prayers was: "God, don't let Jeff kill me! God, please spare my life!"
Defense attorneys, who did not make an opening statement, were expected to cross-examine the woman Thursday. The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
The woman told jurors that several years earlier, Maxwell would occasionally chat with her when he lived half a mile from her rural North Texas home outside Weatherford, but she told him to keep away when he started coming on too strong by asking to kiss her. Maxwell moved to Corsicana, about 100 miles away, in 2005.
Then he showed up at her house last March, sprayed something in her eyes and started dragging her as she grabbed onto a barbed-wire fence in vain, she testified. He shackled her hands and feet and hit her twice in the head. She briefly escaped and ran down the road before he caught up with her and forced her into the back of his SUV at gunpoint, she said.
He then took her into his garage, severely whipped and sexually assaulted her while she was suspended naked on a deer-skinning device, she said.
Because she's a devout Christian and had never married, the 63-year-old woman had no sexual experiences before the ordeal and didn't understand what was happening, she said. She became even more upset when she thought God may not forgive her, she said.
After about a week, Maxwell stopped assaulting her because he became ill, but at times he asked her to sit on his lap while he watched television and he touched her breasts, she said. He also let her read the Bible but chained her leg to the bed each night. He once left a cellphone out, but she said she didn't know how to use it and thought he might hear her — and kill her — if she tried calling for help.
He convinced her that someone hired him to kill her, and she told jurors Wednesday that she still believed his story.
She finally escaped by running out of the house when Parker County authorities went there to question Maxwell about the woman's disappearance after her house burned down — two days after her abduction.
The woman initially told authorities Maxwell was her friend and had been good to her. But the woman said Wednesday those statements were not true. She testified that at the time, she was still afraid of Maxwell and was trying to keep her promise of not pressing charges if he let her go. She said it took her a long time to realize she'd escaped.
Earlier Wednesday, jurors saw various items that authorities seized from Maxwell's house and car, including blood-stained underwear, guns, a long wooden box with a lid, duct tape, pepper spray, whips, handcuffs and a pair of the woman's shoes.
Defense attorneys have objected to entering the evidence at the trial, questioning whether authorities had obtained proper search warrants before collecting items from Maxwell's house.