Upshur County: Court upholds conviction

Published on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 16:44 - Written by Phillip Williams Special Correspondent

GILMER -- The Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana on Wednesday upheld the murder conviction of former Upshur County jailer Sharon Anne Maxwell, who an Upshur County jury sentenced to life imprisonment in 2012 after convicting her of killing her tenth husband.

Mrs. Maxwell, now 46, was convicted of the Aug. 30, 2011 shooting of 46-year-old Gordon Lynn Maxwell at their home near Ore City. Although his charred body was found in his burned pickup outside the home, an autopsy showed he died of "homicidal violence," and testimony brought out he was shot four times.

The 115th District Court jury convicted Mrs. Maxwell Aug. 24, 2012, before sentencing her to life three days later. She had pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution presented tapes showing the ex-jailer drastically changed her accounts of events surrounding the shooting. She first said in two 911 calls that her husband's truck was afire, that she didn't know where he was, and that bullets were spraying from it.

But later that day, she told the county fire marshal Maxwell had put a gun in her mouth, tried to kill her, and slammed her down on a bed before the gun somehow discharged while her son was asleep at the home.

Then in March 2012, Mrs. Maxwell told sheriff's investigators that her son James Potter, 19 at the time of the incident, shot her husband in a bedroom. She had initially said her son was asleep at the home at the time. Potter testified he didn't shoot Gordon Maxwell, and denied his half-brother's testimony that he had admitted it.

Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd speculated at trial that Mrs. Maxwell killed her husband because he told her he was going to divorce her. A man had testified he had committed adultery with her during her marriage to Maxwell, and the state presented an expert witness (who had not examined Mrs. Maxwell) to say she exhibited symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder, which results in rage when someone feels abandoned.

Mrs. Maxwell's attorney at trial, Gilmer lawyer Matthew Patton, criticized the "incompetent" investigation of the case, telling jurors "there's not any evidence that directly connects" his client to the crime. Gilmer attorney Dwight Brannon, who appealed the conviction, argued the expert witness's testimony should not have been admitted at trial, said Byrd, who prosecuted the case before Assistant District Attorney Natalie Miller rebutted the appeal.