Case Files: Jeffrey Maxwell

Updated: Nov 15

Meet Lois Pearson. She survived being kidnapped, beaten, sexually assaulted, raped, and psychological horror for 13 days under the control of Jeffrey Maxwell. She was 62 at the time.

Jeffrey Allan Maxwell (59 in 2012)

300 lbs, 6'5”, wolverine sideburns, greasy gray hair. Weatherford, TX

Detectives who have known Jeffrey Maxwell for decades say he has always been able to get himself out of trouble. Whether it was burning down his house for the insurance money or shooting his animals to get out of feeding them or much, much worse, Maxwell has always, one way or another, evaded punishment. He once bragged to police that he started stealing women’s underwear when he was a teenager and had taken between 30 and 40 pairs in his lifetime, without ever getting caught. Sometimes he’d break in when nobody was home. Other times he’d excuse himself to use the restroom during dinner and slip his hand into the dirty clothes hamper.

He had lots of jobs over the years. He worked as an airline mechanic, as a feed salesman, and as a prison guard. For the last few years, he had been living off Social Security disability benefits.

Martha Martinez

He married when he was 18, when his girlfriend, Rita, got pregnant. After a few years, they divorced, and in 1981, Maxwell met someone else through a mail matchmaking service. Martha Martinez lived with her parents in Mexico. Apart from a few trips to see her, their relationship consisted primarily of loving letters back and forth. When he finally came to Mexico to propose, Martha’s family was very upset.

“We just didn’t like him,” says Carole Martinez, who is married to Martha’s brother Javier. “Everyone tried to be nice to him, but he gave people such a creepy feeling.” Though they begged Martha not to marry him, she was 29 and worried this would be her last chance to become a wife and mother. “She was insecure,” Carole says. “And he preyed upon that.”

When Carole married Javier, Martha brought Maxwell to the celebration. Carole remembers Maxwell approaching her at the reception. “He looked at me, and he said, ‘I guess since we’re family now, I get to kiss you,’ and he jammed his tongue down my throat.” A few months later, he did the same thing to the bride at another family wedding.

Martha began telling friends about some more troubling behavior. She would show up with bruises on her wrists and ankles. She mostly kept it from her family, though. By then, Martha and Maxwell had a son together.

In 1987, Martha was found bound and beaten alongside I-35, about 10 miles outside Ardmore, Oklahoma. Her throat was slit, and she was barely alive. When she awoke in the hospital, she told police that Maxwell had drugged her, tied her up, tortured her, and left her to die. When detectives searched their home, they found stashed next to the air-conditioning unit a brown paper bag full of books about bondage. One was Bound, Whipped, and Caged School Girls. Another was Bondage for Three Wives. Below that they found another bag containing handcuffs, cords, and clothespins.

Maxwell was arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping.

Martha took her son with her to Mexico to stay with her family. She told them some of the stories she’d kept secret for so long, about Maxwell binding her and locking her alone in a small room for days. But when it came time to testify about what she’d suffered, she felt like the judge and the police didn’t believe her. Authorities stopped contacting her, and eventually the charges were dropped.

Maxwell started writing Martha letters again, apologizing for what he’d done. Martha shared them with her family as they pleaded with her not to go back to him. “The letters were really more manipulative than anything,” Carole says. He appealed to Martha’s Catholic upbringing. “He kept telling her that God wanted them to be together and basically blamed her for everything that had happened.”

Her family was livid when she announced that she was moving back to Fort Worth to live with him. “She felt like she didn’t have any options,” Carole says.

At first, things seemed to get better. She went to college and got an associate degree. Their son seemed happy, and Martha adored Maxwell’s son from his previous marriage. When Martha brought Maxwell to a family reunion, some people even forced themselves to make small talk with him. But they still weren’t completely surprised when, in 1993, Martha went missing.

Her family last heard from her on Mother's Day in 1992. Her car was still at home, her passport untouched and her credit cards left behind.

Her husband, Maxwell, told police that she had left on her own.

Two people received letters that looked like they were in Martha’s handwriting, saying she was leaving her husband and son and wouldn’t be in touch for a while. The letters were alarming.

“She almost always just picked up the phone and called,” Carole says. “It was strange.”

The letters were in English, even though anytime she’d written anything to anyone in her family, it had been in Spanish. The outsides of both envelopes had been addressed in a different hand. Convinced something horrible had happened, Martha’s friends and parents contacted the Fort Worth police. But it wasn’t until her brother flew to Texas to talk to them in person that there was a report filed. And though the family felt strongly that Maxwell was involved—“There was no doubt,” Carole says— but the investigation went cold and A Tarrant County grand jury did not bring charges because of lack of evidence.

In 1995, he petitioned the court for a divorce, citing Martha’s disappearance. Soon after, he remarried Rita, who by then had three young daughters from another marriage. But two days before his second wedding to Rita, police reports would later show, her best friend said Maxwell raped her. That woman, who was renting part of a duplex from Maxwell, said he came over one night to fix a broken sink and forced himself on her. When he was done, he put his clothes on, warned her not to tell anyone, and left her crying on the bed.

Not long after he moved in with Rita and her girls, the middle daughter complained to school officials that her stepfather was touching her inappropriately. The girl said it happened most often while she was playing Nintendo. He would lie next to her and put his tongue in her mouth. She would try to block him with her teeth, she said.

After the complaints, Maxwell moved the family to a different school. At the new school, there were new allegations. This time the youngest daughter said she, too, had been touched. She described waking up in the middle of a thunderstorm and wanting her mother. But when she got to the bedroom, Maxwell was the only one there. She said he groped her all over, until they saw the mother’s headlights in the driveway and he told her to go back to bed. This time Child Protective Services insisted Rita take the girls and leave the house, but again Maxwell escaped charges.

Year 2000 – Amelia Smith

5'3”, 111 lbs - 51 year old Amelia Smith was employed at a taxi company in Irving, Texas in 2000. She departed from the business after her shift ended at 10:00 p.m. on February 3, 2000. Authorities believe that Smith drove to her trailer home in Weatherford, Texas alone shortly afterwards. Smith's husband was visiting his mother at the time, and their children were not at the residence either.

Neighbors reported that her trailer home was on fire at approximately 4:00 a.m. the following morning. By the time authorities arrived at the residence, it was fully engulfed in flames. Investigators discovered that someone also attempted to set fire to the interior of Smith's vehicle, which was located near her home. She resided alone at the time and authorities were unable to discover evidence suggesting she was a victim of the fire. Smith was never heard from again. Investigators believe that an arsonist was responsible for the fire at her residence. An extensive search of the surrounding areas produced no clues as to her whereabouts.

Her husband stated Smith is deeply religious and a responsible person who would not have abandoned her children. Foul play is suspected in Smith's case, which remains unsolved. Was Maxwell involved?

Jeffrey Maxwell/Lois Pearson

Lois Marie Pearson, 62 in 2011

From Whitt in Parker County, TX about a half and hour west of Fort Worth. Small build, 120lbs, black/grey, very curly hair. Never been married, never had children.

Instead of bustling city highways and crowded strip malls, she preferred the peaceful solitude of the small wooden house she grew up in, surrounded by the rural hills of northwest Parker County. Her family lived in that house when she was born, in 1949, and except for the two years she spent at college, Tarleton State—where she and her mother shared an apartment—Pearson never moved away. She was content living on the modest income she got from leasing her 60 acres to a man with cattle. On warm days, she would stroll through the pastures with her cats and feed the cows.

“I’ve just always been comforted by animals and nature,” she would say. “There are so many things in society that are harmful.”

After her mother died, Pearson became fiercely self-reliant. When the pipes froze a few years ago, rather than hire a plumber, she decided to live without running water, hauling jugs of water herself from a well. Many of the lights in the house stopped working long ago, too, so she carried an old lamp, attached to an extension cord, from room to room as she went about her daily business. Needless to say, that means she also didn't have a phone of any sort and She got rid of her television more than a decade prior.

She grew up a devout Baptist. Every Sunday, she drove to church, and once a month she’d go into Mineral Wells, the nearest town with stores, to buy groceries and wash her clothes at the laundromat. She drove the 1970 Nova she bought new during her first year as an elementary school teacher, which she had since retired from. On Sundays when the Nova wouldn’t start, she would walk to church and back, a 20-mile round trip. For comparison, this would be like walking from Allen, OK to Ada, OK. (19.2miles) And not just to Ada, but to West Ada – so, like, From Allen to the Lazer Zone or to Lighthorse Police Station, which is 20.2 miles.

She often went days without any human interaction. She never had a boyfriend. She had, in fact, never been naked in front of a man—not even a doctor. She was basically living that nun life without the habit.

The first time she met Jeffrey Maxwell was in 2001 when he bought property just west of hers. Maxwell was in his late 40s at the time, and Pearson in her early 50s. They made small talk every so often, and he’d wave as he’d pass her house. One time he helped her borrow a tractor for the field out back. As a thank-you, she brought him a basket of fresh vegetables and berries. She hated feeling indebted to anyone.

Maxwell once asked her out on a date, to dinner. She told him the invitation made her feel “weird,” and she declined. Then one afternoon he showed up at her house, jumped out of his car, and asked her for a kiss. Pearson was insulted. The expectant smirk on his face made her angry.

“Don’t you ever come to my house ever again,” she told him. “You’re not welcome.”

He moved away shortly after that, in 2005, but, much to her surprise, she saw him once more before he left. Their conversation was brief and civil. He stopped by to show her photos of the modular house he was having built on Richland Chambers Reservoir, just outside the city limits of Corsicana, Navarro County TX about 100 miles away.

The neighborhood off SE CR 3124A, in Mattie Caston Shores, Phase III, is a quiet one with a mix of brick homes and wooden ones backing up to the Richland Chambers Reservoir.

Neighbors in Mattie Caston Shores, Phase III, said Maxwell was a nosey, bossy man, who would demand to see fishing or hunting licenses, and who turned off those who extended a friendly hand.

According to appraisal records, Maxwell bought the 1-acre site in 2006.

“He alienated everybody until they told him to stay away,” said Stan Hart, who lives down the road from Maxwell’s house. “He was weird.”

Maxwell was also a man of habit. Nearly every Sunday, he could be found at the Old Aggie General for breakfast, but he wasn’t popular, said owner Tammy Cantrell.

“He was nice, but weird,” Cantrell said. “How many people do you know who wants to sit in your restaurant and brag about how much money he had? He was very loud and obnoxious. Nobody liked him. We all had an eerie feeling about him.”

Maxwell also seldom missed a Corsicana Kiwanis meeting, and is even the current vice president of the club. Fellow club member Les Cotten, Navarro County Sheriff, said Maxwell was odd, standing out in the a friendly atmosphere of their weekly luncheons where the business typically revolves around raising money for charity.

“He was there, but he was real quiet,” Cotten said. “Just to me he was kind of a strange person.”

On the afternoon of March 1, 2011, Pearson was preparing to make her monthly trip into town—she was actually standing next to her car—when Maxwell pulled up behind her Nova in a silver Chevy TrailBlazer.

“If he came five minutes later, I would have been gone,” she’d say later.

Maxwell greeted her cordially, with a smile. He got out of the truck, making small talk along the side of the house. Before she could remember that she’d been mad at him all those years ago, he asked her about her church. As she talked, he slowly moved toward her. She slowly moved away. Before long they were nearing the back of the house. Pearson, feeling a bit embarrassed about her containers of well water, began directing the conversation back toward the driveway. Then she noticed that something about his face had changed.

“He had this strange look in his eye,” she’d remember. “We both just stopped talking.”

He reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a can with a strange top, and lifted it to her face. Before she could say anything, he unleashed a stream of pepper spray, making sure to get it into both of her eyes. But the spray had no effect. She turned and ran for the barbed-wire fence next to her car.

She’d just reached the fence—her hands were on the top wire—when he caught her. He wrapped his arms around her abdomen and heaved, but she wouldn’t let go of that fence—even as the barbs dug into her fingers and blood began dripping from her hands.

He was too strong, though. He dragged her to the ground in front of his truck. That’s when, in an act of desperation, she yelled as loud as she could. Hoping someone might hear her, or maybe it would deter Maxwell, she screamed, “I got AIDS!”

But in the seldom-traveled back roads of Parker County, there was no one to hear her. And Maxwell just muttered something along the lines of “I woulda done this for free,” as he dragged her to the back door of the house.

He stood her up, clicked a pair of prison-style shackles onto her ankles, and opened the back door. She was still struggling to free herself when he got her into the kitchen. He picked up a wooden rolling pin off the kitchen counter—it had been her mother’s—and hit Pearson on the left side of her head. When she didn’t go down, he swung again, even harder this time, and hit her on the right side. This one sent her to the ground. Later, she would say that on a scale of one to 10, the hit on the left side of her face was a 10 and the hit on the right side was a 15.

She could feel her eyes swelling shut almost immediately. But she didn’t stop trying to run away until he picked up her large butcher’s knife. She sat still, dizzy and bleeding onto her kitchen floor. He asked her where she kept the duct tape. She was silent. He asked again, and again she was quiet. He pulled the long extension cord off of her lamp and began cutting it into sections.

He walked her into the living room and used the strips of extension cord to tie her to a doorknob. She watched him as he went back through the kitchen and out the back door. She heard him walking toward the cars. He’d been gone only a few seconds when she was able to slip her wrists out of the ties—she’s always had very small wrists. She stood up and ran out the door in the opposite direction.

By the time he’d gone back into the house, noticed she was gone, and gotten into his truck to chase her down, she’d already made it several hundred yards down the road, even with the shackles on her ankles. He sped after her, pulling the truck off the road in front of her, cutting her off. Then he stepped out with a pistol in his hand.

“Now we’re going into plan B,” he said.

The look on his face terrified Pearson. He opened the cargo gate at the back of the truck and pushed her in. He leaned in over her and put handcuffs around her wrists. Then he slid a piece of duct tape over her mouth. She shook her head violently.

“Air!” she yelled, though it was muffled by the duct tape. “Air!”

He looked down at her, finally in control, and grinned.

“Are you a virgin?” he asked.

She began to cry. He mimicked her cries, mocking her. Then he closed the door and climbed behind the wheel. As he drove away, he told her he’d have to come back and burn her house down.

“Please don’t,” she pleaded through the tape. “Please don’t burn my house.”

She felt the truck pull onto the highway. He watched her in the rearview mirror and told her to lie down flat in the back. It was still daylight, though, and she hoped that maybe if she could lift her legs and passing drivers could see her shackles, they might be able to help her. Every time she raised her legs, he screamed at her and told her he’d pull over and kill her. She noticed that the windows seemed to have an especially dark tint, and as she heard car after car go by without seeing her, she felt helpless. She imagined throwing the spare tire and hitting Maxwell but figured that would only make him angrier. She thought about opening the back gate and rolling onto the highway, but she couldn’t find the release. He heard her praying aloud, asking God for help over and over, and he scoffed.

“When I’m through with you,” he said, “you won’t believe in God.”

Pearson felt the truck turn off the highway. She didn’t recognize any of the roads or buildings she could see. She felt Maxwell stopping, turning the truck around, and backing in somewhere. He got her out and into the garage of a house she’d never seen before. He closed the door behind her.

She looked around the cluttered room. There was lawn furniture, a mower, a workbench full of tools, a washer and dryer in the corner. Maxwell took off her shackles. He began peeling off her clothing, everything but her bra. That he cut off with a knife. Then he cuffed each of her hands to the ends of a thick steel bar attached to the ceiling with chains.

Confused, she watched him flip a switch on a yellow control box attached by a cable to the same spot in the ceiling as the chains. She felt her arms lifted first. Then she felt her shoulders pulled forcefully upward. The motor in the ceiling hummed as she moved higher and higher. When he flipped the switch again, it stopped, and she could feel her naked legs dangling in the air.

As he raised Pearson into the air, Maxwell yelled at her. He was still angry that she had disobeyed him in the car. He called her a bitch. No one had ever called her that. She could feel his hands on her body, roaming, probing. She felt something hard and pointed—it felt like a plastic bullet. She felt him put it in her rectum and then do something to make it start shaking.

It felt like he wanted it to hurt—and it did. In her polite way, she would later recall, “It was very uncomfortable.”

“I’ll keep you for two weeks,” he told her.

Then he started hitting her. At first he used a small black whip with red tassels at the end. Then he switched to a longer bullwhip. At some point, he used the end of a fishing pole. He hit everywhere, from her neck and throat to her feet and ankles and everywhere in between. He focused on her breasts, which hurt the most. She couldn’t help but cry out.

He told her again that when he was through with her, she wouldn’t believe in God. He asked if it hurt. She told him it did.

“Good,” he said.

When he finally lowered her to the ground, she could barely stand. He walked her up the small wooden garage stairs and into the kitchen, stopping to show her the rifle he kept loaded by the door. Pearson was terrified of guns. As soon as her father died, she and her mother had removed all the guns from the house.

Maxwell walked her to the bathroom and told her to clean up. For the first time, she got a glimpse of the bruises that were forming all over her body. Her right eye was swollen shut. She worried she might lose it. He must have overheard her asking God to spare her life, because Maxwell sneered through the doorway, “You better pray.”

He took a quick shower then gave her some of his jeans to wear. They were enormous on her, and they smelled like him. It was awful, but that was when she realized that she would live longer if she kept him happy.

That night he chained her ankles to the bed, turned off all the lights, and lay down next to her. Pearson didn’t sleep, though, and Maxwell didn’t sleep much either. Every time she would turn to look in his direction, she’d see his wide, owl-like eyes peering back at her through the darkness. It was her first night away from home in more than 40 years.

As dawn broke on day two, Maxwell told her he had to go to the store. He said he needed more padlocks. He stood her up and walked her toward the garage. She thought he was putting her back on the machine, and she broke into tears.

“Please, no,” she said.

He showed her a homemade wooden box on the floor of the garage. It looked like a coffin. She noticed the wood looked and smelled new. He told her she could pick: into the box or back on the machine? Her decision was instant. She would have done anything to avoid going back up on the machine. He put a metal ring in her mouth to gag her and closed the attached strap behind her head. Then he cuffed her wrists and ankles and told her to lie down in the box. Through the gag, she voiced her concern about air. He put a wrench on the edge of the box to prop up the lid about an inch. Then he left.

She waited for a few seconds after she heard the engine start outside to make sure the car was gone. Then, lying on her back, she tried to push open the homemade coffin. As hard as she pushed and kicked—and she tried until her knees were black from the bruising—she couldn’t do anything more than knock the wrench out and lock herself in darkness. She wouldn’t realize until he returned with the new locks that he had moved the box under a heavy workbench.

When he got back, he brought her into the bedroom and took her clothes off. He put her on the bed and began rubbing between her legs. Pearson had never talked to her parents about sex, and she had certainly never taken a sex-ed class. She didn’t know what he was doing to her, but it hurt. When she winced in pain, he asked how she’d like going into the garage and getting hung upside down. She tried to not make a sound after that.

When he was done, he cuffed her leg to the bed again. For the first few days, that’s what he did anytime he wasn’t in the room with her. Whether he was taking a shower or walking to the mailbox, he couldn’t be too careful. That night, her body exhausted, she finally slept a few hours.

The next morning, he told her he needed to drive into Dallas to pay a repair bill for his son. He cuffed her and gagged her and left her chained to the bed for hours. As she sat there, bouncing every now and then to keep the blood flowing to her hands, she wondered if anyone in the world would ever know she was in this house. She wondered what would happen if Maxwell got into an accident on the highway, if she would waste away attached to the frame of a bed bolted to the floor. She could hear the sounds o