Relatives of torturer's missing ex-wife have unanswered questions

FORT WORTH -- Jeffrey Maxwell will head to prison in a few days, and with him could go the story of what happened to his ex-wife, who has been missing since 1992.

Maxwell, 59, has repeatedly told authorities that he knows nothing of the whereabouts of Martha Martinez Maxwell and had nothing to do with her disappearance. He's told her family the same thing. And last year, as he sat in the Parker County Jail, the Corsicana man denied to his adult son knowing anything about the boy's mother.

"This is really hard on him," said Carole L. Martinez of Denver, Martha Martinez's sister-in-law, referring to the couple's only son. "He attended the first day of his father's trial and he didn't come back."

Maxwell was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for beating and kidnapping Lois Pearson of Parker County last year, then sexually torturing her for 12 days before authorities found her at his home.

Pearson, 63, spoke to reporters after the sentencing, allowing her identity to be used. Generally, the Star-Telegram does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Maxwell, 59, used a homemade deer rack, clips, sexual devices and whips to torture Pearson. To keep her captive, Maxwell -- who was once a vice president with the Kiwanis Club in Corsicana -- chained Pearson to a bed frame, placed handcuffs and shackles on her, and put her in a coffinlike wooden box.

From his home, authorities confiscated dozens of DVDs, books and magazines depicting pornography, rape, torture and bondage.

'That rage came back'

During the Parker County trial, Carole Martinez and her husband, Javier, who sat through four days of testimony, got a glimpse of what Martha Martinez may have gone through when she was married to Maxwell.

Maxwell and his wife lived in Fort Worth when she disappeared, and police there have said the case remains open. The couple previously lived in Watauga.

Before she disappeared, Javier Martinez, Martha's brother, said his sister had called him crying and telling him what Maxwell had done to her.

"I felt rage and anger for years after her disappearance," Javier Martinez said Thursday. "That rage came back during the trial because the memories came back."

Maxwell told a Texas Ranger during a taped interview last year that he and his former wife engaged in bondage.

"Most of it was consensual," Maxwell told Ranger Tony Bradford.

When asked whether he thought about killing his ex-wife, Maxwell answered, "Not intentionally."

Maxwell and Martha Martinez married in 1981.

On the morning of April 19, 1987, a dispatcher warned Watauga police officer Ben Whitley to approach Maxwell with caution because he was a suspect in the aggravated assault of his wife, according to 1987 Watauga Department of Public Safety reports.

At Maxwell's home in the 6000 block of Martha Drive, Whitley asked him about his wife's whereabouts, the reports state.

"I have not seen her since 10 p.m. last night," he told the officer. "She left last night, and I don't know where she went."

Hope to learn more

Martha Maxwell told police that on the night of April 18, her husband had beaten her after an argument and she went to sleep on the couch, documents show. When she awoke, her hands were bound behind her back with duct tape, according to arrest and search warrant affidavits. Her husband hooked an electrical device to her breasts and shocked her, according to the affidavits, then sexually tortured her.

She couldn't recall how she ended up on the side of Interstate 35, about 10 miles north of Ardmore, Okla., on the morning of April 19.

She later fled to Mexico with her child to recover. But she would reunite with Maxwell after he apologized.

Her family last heard from her on Mother's Day 1992. Jeffrey Maxwell told Fort Worth police that she left on her own. He divorced her in 1995, saying one reason was that he couldn't find her.

Carole Martinez said Thursday that she hopes authorities will question Maxwell again once he goes to prison.

"It's brought some closure," she said, referring to the trial. "Our goal now is to encourage him [Maxwell's son] to be a part of the family and move on with his life."

But the Colorado resident said relatives would still like to get more information from Maxwell.

"I know she was tortured," Javier Martinez said. "He is where he belongs."

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Domingo Ramirez Jr.,


Twitter: @stcrime