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Wife found guilty of husband's murder

By Christina Lane
Aug. 24, 2012 at 10 p.m.

GILMER - A jury on Friday found an Ore City woman guilty of murdering her 10th husband.

Gordon Maxwell's family members cried as they embraced each other Friday afternoon outside of Upshur County's 115th District Court, minutes after a jury pronounced Sharon Maxwell guilty.

Testimony in the trial revealed Maxwell was shot repeatedly while lying in his bed, his body wrapped in covers, dumped in his truck, doused with gasoline and set on fire Aug. 30, 2011.

In the final day of testimony, jurors heard dramatic details of a sexual affair between the defendant and another man.

Joey Stroman testified he had an affair with Sharon Maxwell that started in 2009 and continued in the two weeks prior to Gordon Maxwell's death. He said Sharon Maxwell told him she had to be careful with her text messages, which were sexual in nature, because her husband had been watching her phone.

Billy Harmon, a co-worker of Gordon Maxwell, testified that Maxwell, who also served as a preacher, had been mulling a divorce but that he truly wanted his marriage to work.

The Maxwells married March 20, 2011. Maxwell started work at U.S. Steel the next day, taking out a $175,000 life insurance policy and listing his wife as the sole beneficiary, Edward Konrady of U.S. Steel testified. Maxwell had to be employed for 90 days (until about late June) before the policy would take effect, Konrady said. Additionally, the couple also had credit life insurance on their home so that the house loan would be paid should one of them die.

According to testimony in the case, after Maxwell returned home from work Aug. 30, he and his wife took her two children to Ore City High School and returned home. District Attorney Billy Byrd suspected Gordon Maxwell may have told his wife during the ride that he intended to leave her.

While Sharon Maxwell had been married nine times prior to Gordon, she had left all of her previous husbands, Byrd said.

When Stroman, whom Maxwell had a "fling" with, tried to leave, she chased him down the highway and grabbed onto his arms via the window to his vehicle, Byrd said in his closing statement.

Licensed professional counselor Wade French testified people with a borderline personality disorder often shift moods rapidly "without very much provocation." He testified they also have a "chronic fear and excessive reaction to abandonment" and that if a person tries to leave them it "frequently provokes anger that goes beyond anger to blind rage."

Gordon Maxwell's body was found in a burning vehicle. He had been shot four times in the head while lying in the couple's bed. Sharon Maxwell admitted she dragged his body from the bed, through the house, across the back porch and to his truck where she poured gasoline on it. She also threw bullets inside the truck, Byrd said, to make it look as if the bullets in his head were a result of the fire.

Maxwell's attorney, Matthew Patton, argued it was the defendant's son James Potter who actually pulled the trigger of the gun that took Gordon Maxwell's life.

But Potter's half-brother William testified James had told him in October Sharon Maxwell shot Gordon Maxwell. Potter also testified Sharon Maxwell threatened at one time to shoot his other half-brother.

James Potter testified there were men constantly coming in and out of his mother's home and that she had threatened multiple men before.

Byrd told the jury there was no motive for James Potter to kill Gordon Maxwell, but added that Sharon Maxwell had several reasons.

"She's a great actress and that's all it is," Byrd said.

He said the case was about lies, deceit and manipulation.

The punishment phase of the trial is set to begin on Monday.



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