Updated Friday, August 24, 2012 at 5:12 p.m. CDT
Mrs. Maxwell told investigators March 6 that the relative killed her 46-year-old 10th husband, Gordon Lynn Maxwell, at their Ore City-area home Aug. 30. But the tape jurors watched Thursday showed she told Upshur County Fire Marshal Paul Steelman on the day of the slaying that Maxwell put a pistol in her mouth, “tried to kill me,” and slammed her down before the gun somehow discharged.
The revelation came on the third day of testimony in the trial, which resumes at 9 a.m. today in Judge Lauren Parish's 115th District Court. Mrs. Maxwell, a 44-year-old former Upshur County jailer, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
Steelman interviewed her the day of the slaying after Maxwell's burned body was found in the victim's pickup outside the residence. But an autopsy showed Maxwell died from homicidal violence, including multiple gunshot wounds, and testimony established that numerous blood stains were found in the master bedroom of the home.
Thursday's tape showed Mrs. Maxwell telling Steelman that she and her husband began arguing before they arrived home from taking the family's children that morning to the Ore City School. He got off work at U.S. Steel in nearby Lone Star shortly after 7 a.m.
After they got home, Mrs. Maxwell said, her husband put the gun in her mouth and “told me he was gonna kill me.”
Mrs. Maxwell said she did not intentionally shoot her husband, but was instead “trying to get away from him.”
She also said during the interview that the relative she would later implicate was asleep at the time. On a tape of a 911 call played for the jury earlier this week, she reported her husband's truck was on fire and she didn't know where he was.
With the audio from the tape difficult to understand at times, Steelman summarized for the jury what Mrs. Maxwell told him. He said she related that she knocked the gun out of her mouth and that it went off, but her finger wasn't on the trigger.
He said she also told him she did not intend to hurt Maxwell.
Mrs. Maxwell said she did not know what to do after the shooting. She said the relative did not help get her husband's body into the truck, which she admitted both on the day of the shooting and on March 6 that she doused with gasoline.
She said she put Maxwell's body in the truck because she did not want to discredit him. Maxwell was a minister and pastored a Baptist Church in Louisiana, according to testimony.
Maxwell's ex-wife, Rhonda Maxwell, testified that in the nearly 16 years they were married, he neither became violent nor pointed a gun at her. She said he wanted their divorce and she was “very shocked” to discover on Facebook that he married Mrs. Maxwell in March 2011 only two or three days after their divorce.
Mrs. Maxwell told investigators Maxwell was her high school sweetheart.
One of Mrs. Maxwell's ex-husbands, Rusty Campbell, testified they married each other twice, and she abruptly informed him during both marriages that she was ending the marriage. He said he was out of town working on both occasions when she called him.
Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd told Judge Parish outside the jury's presence the state believes Mrs. Maxwell's true motive for murdering her husband was, “She was sleeping with several other men” and “We believe that Mr. Maxwell was walking out the door” on her.
Two co-workers of Maxwell's at U.S. Steel testified he was an excellent employee, but that they saw a change in his behavior before his death. One of them, Billy Harmon, said Maxwell had become “somewhat depressed” and told him, “He was having problems at home.”
Harmon said he told Maxwell he should not stay in a relationship “that could cut his life short.” Harmon quoted Maxwell as saying his wife “was good with a .357” pistol.
Harmon said that when he told Maxwell, “He might ought to get out of” the marriage, “(Maxwell) shed tears.” The two men worked together the day Maxwell was killed, but didn't talk much that day, Harmon said.