WEATHERFORD, Texas (AP) — A Texas woman described being whipped on a deer-skinning device and enduring repeated sexual assaults as she was held captive for 12 days by a former neighbor, telling jurors Wednesday that she was terrified he would kill her.
The woman said Jeffrey Allan Maxwell kept her handcuffed or chained to a bed and gagged, and put her in a wooden box at least once when he left her alone at his house in Corsicana, about 50 miles south of Dallas. He eventually removed the restraints when they were in the same room, so she was able to run out of the house after he answered the door when authorities came by to question him about her disappearance.
"My goal was to stay alive. I didn't want to die," the 63-year-old woman told jurors during about four hours of testimony.
Maxwell, 59, faces up to life in prison if convicted of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. He was warned by the judge, when jurors left the courtroom for a lunch break Wednesday, to not try to intimidate witnesses after prosecutors complained he was making faces during the woman's testimony.
Defense attorneys, who did not make an opening statement, were expected to cross-examine the woman Thursday. The Associated Press 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. 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, 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.
As he drove to his home, she lifted her feet in the air, hoping drivers would see her, but to no avail, 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 she was terrified and in so much pain that she decided to do anything to avoid being put back on "the machine," but never consented to any sex act with Maxwell.
Because she's a devout Christian and had never married, she had no sexual experiences before the ordeal and didn't understand what was happening, she said. And 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.
The woman, whom prosecutors described as "eccentric" during opening statements, 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 on her own.
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 women'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.