WEATHERFORD — A Corsicana man accused in the abduction and torture of a Parker County woman is under investigation in the disappearance of two other North Texas women, one of them his ex-wife whose family has not heard from her since 1992, the Parker County sheriff said today.
Jeffrey A. Maxwell was arrested Saturday just minutes after authorities discovered the missing 62-year-old Parker County woman who had been held captive for 12 days at his Corsicana home.
Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said today that Maxwell, 58, is being investigated in the disappearance of Amelia Martinez Smith, 51, of Parker County. She disappeared in 2000 after firefighters discovered her trailer home was burned to the ground.
"She just dropped off the face of the earth," Fowler said. "Her credit card wasn't used or anything."
Authorities also may look into the disappearance of Maxwell's ex-wife, Martha Martinez Maxwell, 41, of Fort Worth. She has been missing since 1992.
Maxwell was charged with aggravated kidnapping in 1987 in the disappearance of his ex-wife. She was found with her throat cut and beaten near Ardmore, Okla., in April 1987, but survived the attack. A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict Maxwell, according to Tarrant County court records.
In the most recent case, describing a "house of horrors," Fowler said the Parker County woman held captive for 12 days is lucky to be alive.
The 62-year-old woman, of Perrin-Whitt, was found Saturday after sheriff's investigators, along with Texas Rangers, followed a tip that led them to the home in Corsicana.
"I'm happy to say we got her back," Fowler said.
Maxwell faces charges of two counts of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping. He remains in the Parker County jail on $400,000 bond.
The woman was reported missing March 3 by family members, after her home and vehicle were destroyed in a fire in northwest Parker County.
"We did a 10-mile search around the house and some people living in the area mentioned a man's name who had some interaction with [the victim] years ago," Fowler said. "A neighbor mentioned he saw a small blue vehicle pull into her driveway and stayed less than a minute and left. About 10 minutes later the house was up in flames."
Fowler then said investigators took the name they had and it was Maxwell, who was living in Corsicana.
On Saturday, investigators went to Corsicana to see if they could find the car, which witnesses also said was adorned with a handicap placard hanging from the mirror and driven by a middle-aged white male.
"Later that afternoon, our investigators and the Texas Rangers knocked on his door [to serve] a search warrant on his car," Fowler said. "He came out of the house [and as] he was talking to officers, denied any knowledge where [the victim] might be when Rangers heard a noise coming from the house, like something moving across the floor. All of a sudden, the door burst open and she came running out, screaming, 'I’m here! I'm here!’"
Maxwell was placed under arrest.
According to sheriff's investigators, the victim was kidnapped by Maxwell on March 1.
"He had a pistol, went to the house, hit her in the head," Fowler said. "She tried to get away but he succeeded in subduing her, tied her up and took her back to Corsicana."
Maxwell then admitted to returning to set the house on fire on March 3, while the woman remained tied up in Corsicana.
"My theory is that it is pretty hard to recover evidence if something is burned to the ground," Fowler said.He said his initial reaction was one of bewilderment.
"What happened to her? We can't find her, this place burns down, she's not here, where did she go?" Fowler said. "Even though she is somewhat reclusive, I just couldn't fathom her walking off and just disappearing — it just didn't make any sense."
The victim was held for 12 days, where Fowler said she was raped and tortured. When asked the "house of horrors" Fowler said: "In my opinion — seeing what I saw from photographs — it was thought out pretty well. We will be looking at [Maxwell] for a long time."
Officials also used cadaver dogs to check Maxwell's property, near a lake in Navarro County.
The victim was taken to the hospital and later released and remains at an undisclosed location in Parker County.
Parker County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain said that if convicted Maxwell faces five to 99 years in prison or life and up to a $10,000 fine for aggravated kidnapping.