You might say that bottle-blond, blue-eyed Sharon Anne Maxwell was the dark belle of Ore City, Texas.
Over the past couple of decades, the 44-year-old femme fatale had married ten men in the town of 1,100 souls -- or roughly two percent of Ore City's total male population -- and prosecutors planned last week to introduce evidence that she was sleeping with several more men around the August 30, 2011 occasion of her last husband's untimely demise.
That was when former Baptist preacher Gordon Lynn Maxwell's charred, gasoline-soaked body was pulled from the smoldering remains of his beloved pickup truck, four .22 caliber bullets lodged in his head.
That trial wrapped up Friday with a guilty verdict, and the coda came yesterday: For the murder of Gordon Maxwell, Sharon Maxwell, a former Upshur County jailer, will spend the rest of her life behind bars.
During the course of the investigation, Sharon Maxwell told three different accounts of what happened that hot August night.
First, she called 911 and told police that her husband's truck was on fire and she didn't know where he was.
Then she said that the .22 revolver had "somehow" gone off during a violent struggle with Gordon Maxwell, to whom she had been married a mere five months. She said he'd grabbed her by the hair, slammed her on the bedroom floor and stuck a pistol in her mouth, all before the gun went off. She had a hard time sticking with that story once it was discovered that there was not one but four bullets in her late husband's head.
Six months later, mommy dearest offered police a third version of events and a new suspect, to boot: her own 19-year-old son, James Potter. Up until that point, she told investigators, she had been lying in order to try to save her son from prison, and she helped Potter dispose of the body because she didn't want to harm the reputation of her former preacher husband.
Investigators didn't believe a word of it, and Potter was ruled out as a potential suspect.
Prosecution witnesses knocked other holes in Maxwell's stories. Gordon's high school sweetheart and ex-wife of 16 years testified that he had never been violent toward her. (She also testified that she was very shocked to learn via Facebook two or three days after her divorce from Gordon that he had already married Sharon.)
One of Sharon Maxwell's nine ex-husbands told the court that she had abruptly ended their marriage with no warning, over the phone while he was working out of town, both times they were married.
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Another man admitted that he had sex with with Sharon 15 days before her husband's murder. One of Gordon's co-workers at U.S. Steel in Lone Star, Texas, told the court that Gordon had seemed depressed and told him he was having problems at home. Gordon also reportedly said that his wife was "good with a .357," and the co-worker advised him to run, not walk, from a marriage that "could cut his life short." (Gordon started work there the day after his March 20 marriage, and also signed up for a $175,000 life insurance policy, naming Sharon as beneficiary. He had to work there for 90 days before anyone could collect.)
Insurance money was one possible motive, but with the jury out of earshot, Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd opined that Gordon Maxwell's doom came from his inability to tolerate Sharon Maxwell's romantic affairs and his intention to leave as soon as he could, taking that U.S. Steel paycheck with him.
The jury reached its guilty verdict in about an hour, Byrd said.
Should there be an eleventh husband for Sharon Maxwell, the arrangement will be strictly platonic, unless the couple can wait until she becomes eligible for parole in 2042.