The Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana on Wednesday upheld the murder conviction of former Upshur County jailer Sharon Anne Maxwell, who received a life sentence from an Upshur County jury which convicted her in 2012 of killing her 10th husband.
Mrs. Maxwell, now 46, was convicted of the Aug. 30, 2011 shooting of 46-year-old Gordon Lynn Maxwell at their home near Ore City. Although his charred body was found in his burned pickup outside the home, an autopsy showed he died of “homicidal violence,” and testimony brought out he was shot four times.
The 115th District Court jury convicted Mrs. Maxwell Aug. 24, 2012, before sentencing her to life three days later. She had pleaded not guilty and did not testify, but tapes presented at trial showed she had given three conflicting stories of events surrounding the shooting.
In a news release announcing the appeals court’s decision, Byrd said Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell had argued inside the home on the day of the slaying and the state theorized he was planning to leave her because he had learned she was committing adultery.
“As he was the sole source of income for Sharon Maxwell, she pulled a .22 caliber revolver and shot him four times as he fell and laid on their bed,” Byrd wrote. “She then drug his body across the floor on a comforter out the back door, across a deck attached to the rear of the house, and then drug him inside his truck she had driven closer to the back porch.
“She then backed the truck up close to a shed in the back yard and poured gasoline inside of the truck and over the outside.”
Before setting the vehicle afire, Byrd wrote, “she threw several different caliber bullets into the cab to make the resulting fire appear as the cause of the bullet wounds she knew were inside his body. The autospy did not reveal any smoke inside his lungs, indicating he was dead prior to the fire being set.”
Although Mrs. Maxwell admitted on tape that she doused the truck with gasoline, the prosecution presented audio and video tapes showing the ex-jailer drastically changed her accounts of events surrounding the shooting.
She first said she did not know where her husband was when his truck was afire. Later, she claimed the shooting accidentally occurred while her husband was attacking her with the gun, but she then said her son shot him.
Tapes of two 911 calls showed her reporting that her husband’s truck was afire, that she didn’t know his whereabouts, and that bullets were spraying from it.
But later that day, she told then-County Fire Marshal Paul Steelman that Maxwell had put a gun in her mouth, attempted to kill her, and slammed her down on a bed before the gun somehow discharged while her son was asleep at the home.
Then in March 2012, Mrs. Maxwell told sheriff’s investigators that her son James Potter, 19 at the time of the incident, shot her husband in a bedroom. She had initially said her son was asleep at the home at the time.
Potter testified he didn’t shoot Gordon Maxwell, and denied his half-brother’s testimony that he had admitted it. Potter tesitified he told investigators he was asleep when Maxwell was shot, and he also testified he was under medication after kidney surgery and couldn’t move easily.
Medical records were produced at trial to show he had been hospitalized before the shooting
The half-brother, a convicted felon, had testified that James Potter first said his mother shot Mr. Maxwell before admitting he himself did it, as the victim had supposedly been beating the woman.
The state also produced testimony to show Gordon Maxwell had a life insurance policy naming the defendant as beneficiary, and a co-worker said he had seemed depressed before his death.
Byrd speculated at trial that Mrs. Maxwell killed her husband because he told her he was going to divorce her. A man testified he had a sexual encounter with her 15 days before Maxwell’s death, and that she had bitten his arm when he ended their relationship during a prior affair in 2009.
Related to that, the state presented an expert witness (who had not examined the defendant) to say she exhibited symptoms of BorderlinePersonality Disoder, which results in rage when someone feels abandoned. In a news release, Byrd said the expert summarized such people’s attitude as “you don’t leave them. They leave you.”
Mrs. Maxwell’s attorney at trial, Gilmer lawyer Matthew Patton, criticized the “incompetent” investigation of the case, telling jurors “there’s not any evidence that directly connects” his client to the crime.
According to Byrd, Gilmer attorney Dwight Brannon, who appealed the conviction, argued the expert witness’s testimony, and the testimony of the man who said he had affairs with Mrs. Maxwell, should not have been admitted at trial.
Byrd prosecuted the case, but Assistant District Attorney Natalie Miller filed the state’s brief rebutting the appeal.
Byrd told The Mirror the case could be appealed further to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, but that it is “unlikely it will succeed.” In the news release announcing the appellate court’s decision, he said that “by all accounts, Gordon Maxwell was a very good man” and that “The jury’s verdict was justice.”
He also praised the various law enforcement agencies that investigated the case, including the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office, a Longview Police Dept. investigator, and personnel from state agencies.