Jeffrey Allan Maxwell, right, in court. Judge Trey Loftin looks on. (Ron T. Ennis / Fort Worth…)
Reporting from Houston — After a devout 63-year-old north Texas woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by a former neighbor, she said she survived by praying and reading the Bible.
A jury convicted Jeffrey Allan Maxwell, 59, of Corsicana this week of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. On Wednesday, a judge sentenced him to three life terms.
Maxwell must serve two of his three sentences consecutively, meaning he will not be eligible for parole for 60 years.
“I’m proud that it’s all over,” Lois Pearson told the Weatherford Democrat after the verdict. "I feel relieved that he won’t be bothering anybody hopefully, because my greatest fear was that he, if he did get out, he would attack another lady. And I don’t think the next lady would live.”
The Los Angeles Times does not usually identify victims of sexual assault. But Pearson on Wednesday told reporters she wanted to come forward to share her story of survival.
Pearson, her face free of makeup, gray hair bobbed and held back with bobby pins, told jurors Maxwell made advances toward her years ago, when they were neighbors in the town of Whitt, about 80 miles west of Dallas. She said she rejected him. Maxwell moved away in 2005, and eventually she moved too.
Then last March, he showed up at her door about 20 miles south in Weatherford -- and tied her up.
Pearson told jurors she almost escaped, heading toward a relative's driveway bruised and bleeding. But Maxwell chased her down and loaded her into his vehicle at gunpoint, according to testimony reported in the Weatherford Democrat.
When they arrived at Maxwell's new home in Corsicana, about 100 miles south of Dallas, he stripped her in his garage and hung her from an iron bar and winch system he described as a hog-cleaning device.
Pearson told jurors that as she hung in the garage, Maxwell sexually assaulted her, beating her with whips and attaching clamps to her nipples.
A deeply religious woman, Pearson said she had never married or had sex before Maxwell assaulted her.
“I wanted to die as a virgin," she told the jury. "He robbed me of that."
She said when Maxwell would leave the house, he gagged and shackled her hand and foot and stored her in a wooden box she dubbed “the coffin."
She was rescued nearly two weeks after the abduction when authorities came to Maxwell's house to question him about her disappearance after her house burned down, according to the Associated Press. She later told them Maxwell had burned the house to destroy evidence of her abduction.
In an interview recorded after his arrest, Maxwell told authorities the kidnapping was the first time he did anything like that “to a complete stranger.” He said he had tried bondage with his second wife and zapped her with a stun gun.
After Wednesday's sentencing, Pearson told reporters that she was relieved her assailant had received the maximum sentence because ever since he was caught, she worried he would win his release and try to kill her.
Still, she said, she is trying to forgive him, in accordance with her unwavering religious beliefs.
“I want you to know there is a God, and he answered my prayers to spare my life,” Pearson told NBC5-DFW. “It's a miracle that I am alive.”
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