PARKER COUNTY -- A man accused of kidnapping and torturing a woman for nearly two weeks went on trial in Weatherford Tuesday morning.
This started as a missing person case following a mysterious house fire. What emerged was a case of sadistic abduction.
Jeffrey Maxwell, 59, is charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault. Maxwell looked thin, frail and gaunt as he shuffled into the Parker County courtroom -- almost unrecognizable from the disheveled man who was arrested at his home near Corsicana last March.
Detectives had come to question him about the disappearance of a 62-year-old woman; a reclusive former neighbor in Parker County whose house had burned down.
As detectives questioned Maxwell, the missing woman ran outside. Jurors heard a recording of that very moment captured on a detective's body microphone.
"Would you be willing to come in to the Navarro County Sheriff's office?" the detective is heard asking Maxwell.
"I am here!" the woman is heard shouting in the background.
A Parker County investigator then took jurors of what the sheriff once called a "blood-stained house of horrors" — including evidence that the woman was chained and beaten; held inside a coffin-like box that was rolled into the courtroom; and hoisted off the garage floor on a metal bar.
"I don't know what it is, but it pulled me up into the air and it scared me to death," the woman told investigators on the recording played for jurors.
Jurors learned that detectives zeroed in on Jeffrey Maxwell because a witness saw a car like his at the scene of the mysterious fire, and because Maxwell cashed one of his victim's checks while she was missing. He was arrested after she had been missing for 12 days.
On the audio recording the woman seems to tell a detective she wrote the check to help rescuers find her. "I wrote him a check for $500," she said. "I thought that you might find him through the check."
Maxwell is accused of sexual assault, among other things, so News 8 is not identifying the victim. She may testify in person at a later point in the trial.
Investigators still want to know if Maxwell might be linked to the disappearance of other women, including his ex-wife, who vanished 20 years ago.