Mansfield man whose wife drowned son gets probation

FORT WORTH -- A Mansfield man whose mentally ill wife drowned their 1-year-old son has been placed on probation after serving about five months of a 10-year prison term -- a legal option known as shock probation.

Michael Maxon, 56, was convicted Jan. 29 of abandoning Alex and placing him in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. Despite warnings from mental-health professionals, Maxon left his wife, Valeria Maxon, alone with the child for about an hour and a half on June 30, 2006.

When Michael Maxon returned from running errands, his wife had drowned Alex because she believed that he was the Antichrist, according to testimony at Michael Maxon's trial.

Maxon, who is believed to be the first Texas husband held criminally responsible for the actions of his mentally ill wife, was indicted in June 2008, less than two months after Valeria Maxon was found not guilty of capital murder by reason of insanity.

A Tarrant County jury deliberated less than 30 minutes before convicting Maxon of abandonment. His attorney, Jack Strickland, asked state District Judge Wayne Salvant to assess his punishment.

Salvant ordered an investigation before sentencing Maxon in April to 10 years in prison. Salvant said he was disturbed that Maxon still didn't believe that he was responsible for his son's death.

"You said over and over that you didn't do anything wrong," Salvant said in April. "I want you to understand that you did. I hope that someday you realize the seriousness of your case and what your actions caused."

Strickland said that's exactly what happened.

Strickland insists that Maxon was more remorseful at trial than his unexpressive demeanor showed. During two months in jail awaiting sentencing and 51/2 months in prison, his client had more time to think about his responsibility for his son's death, Strickland said.

That led Strickland to ask Salvant for shock probation, which lets a judge reconsider probation for up to six months after sentencing. After ordering records showing that Maxon had no disciplinary problems in prison, Salvant returned him to Tarrant County last month. All told, Maxon has been behind bars since January.

After Maxon and his psychologist testified Sept. 9 that he now accepts responsibility for his son's death, Salvant granted him probation over the objection of prosecutor Alana Minton.

"Probation is not warranted based on the facts of this case," Minton said. "He should be in the penitentiary."

Strickland disagreed.

"Everybody is aware that punishment is a broader concept than how many days you're locked up," he said. "In this case, he lost his wife, his son, his whole life. I can't help but believe that the court considered those facts as well as the number of days he was locked up."

Under the probation terms, Strickland said, Maxon is prohibited from writing or publishing any books about the circumstances of his son's death or his wife's trial or his own.

During his trial, he acknowledged that he had written several books under the pen name Johnny Delicious. One book, promoted online about the time of the trial, is titled The Need for Greed: Dracula's Curse and recounted details of his son's death.

Because of the judge's order, Strickland said, he will advise Maxon not to comment publicly on the case.

Martha Deller, 817-390-7857

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