Crime

Neighbor repeatedly stabbed Lake Bridgeport woman, then set her on fire, warrant says

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A Lake Bridgeport man repeatedly stabbed his neighbor in the back and neck, and then set her on fire as she lay on her bed in July, according to a warrant.

Before that, Rodney A. Maxwell, 39, removed smoke detectors from a hallway and the master bedroom of Lauren Whitener’s home, giving the fire time to fully engulf her home, the warrant says.

Maxwell poured gasoline on a couch and the bed, according to the arrest warrants obtained Tuesday by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Maxwell, who was one of Whitener’s neighbors, was arrested last week in Wise County after authorities received tests results from evidence gathered at the crime scene.

Maxwell remained in the Wise County Jail in Decatur on Tuesday. He faces a charge of capital murder in the killing of Whitener, 32.

Lake Bridgeport is about 60 miles northwest of Fort Worth.

The arson and capital murder warrants gave this brief outline of the investigation:

Shortly after 4 a.m. on July 5, Lake Bridgeport and Bridgeport firefighters responded to the scene and quickly extinguished the fire at a duplex on North Main Street in Lake Bridgeport.

“The duplex suffered smoke and water damage, but the fire was contained to a bed and couch,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in July.

Investigators collected samples from Maxwell’s home, his backyard, Whitener’s backyard, her back porch, grass from backyards and Whitener’s back door knob.

Tests results showed the presence of blood in several samples, according to the warrant.

One blade of grass collected near the victim’s backyard gate had Lauren Whitener’s blood on it.

Maxwell denied making any repairs in Whitener’s home, but when authorities said there could be DNA on the smoke detectors and batteries, he stated he may have changed out the batteries, so his DNA could be on those items.

Whitener was the mother of a young boy, but the child was not home at the time of the killing or fire, according to Star-Telegram media partner WFAA-TV. Family members also said Whitener was an Army veteran and a surgical tech.

Julie Johnson told WFAA-TV she had no idea who would kill her daughter, who she called a loving mother.

“It’s a horrible tragedy,” Johnson said “But I know my daughter is with Christ and I feel really, really sorry for the person who did this because they’ll have to live with this forever.”

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