Lynn and Lindsey Maxwell received the maximum punishment the law allows for keeping a child in a house full of cats, animal feces, and garbage.
Palermo Town Justice Robert Wood sentenced the Maxwells to a year in jail for each of the four counts of child endangerment for which they were convicted. The law allows a maximum sentence of two years for the crime. If they behave in jail, they could be out in about 16 months.
They were found guilty of running a home that put the life of Lindsey’s daughter, Erin Maxwell, in danger. Erin was murdered in her bedroom last year. Her stepbrother, Alan Jones, will be sentenced soon for killing her.
More than 50 people crowded into Palermo Town Court to witness the sentencing. Moments before, the Maxwells offered their take on the night’s events.
“A lot of people would like to see me drop dead,” Lynn Maxwell said. “These people aren’t here for Erin,” said Lindsey. “They’re full of it. The only thing they’re here for is their own glory.” “They’re out for blood,” defense lawyer Sal Lanza said of the townsfolk.
Prosecutor Mark Moody pleaded with the judge to give the Maxwells the harshest sentence possible.
“They treated her like a pet,” he said, locking her in her room even as they locked dozens of cats into the master bedroom each day. They wanted Erin “out of sight, out of mind,” he said.
“Somewhere in Erin’s life, I hope she realized this wasn’t right. Because if she didn’t, the damage was incalculable.
“The defendants simply, completely, stubbornly refused to acknowledge even a modicum of responsibility.”
Lanza quickly reviewed his grievances with the case against the Maxwells and objected to the Probation Department’s report, which is prepared before a defendant is sentenced, that said that while the Maxwells were unlikely to commit other crimes, they should receive the maximum punishment because they have not taken responsibility for what happened.
“Because they’ve maintained their innocence,” he said. “Maximum incarceration.”
“Mr. Moody,” Lanza continued, “wants you to give the four years. That way, he looks good, you look good. But it’s illegal.”
Lanza did not offer a recommendation to the judge on a sentence for his clients. He is preparing an appeal and will ask today that his clients be let out of jail on bail while he argues their appeal.
Judges often say something to the defendant before sentencing them; Judge Wood did not. He pronounced sentence. “I guess that’s it,” he said.
But it wasn’t.
A former coworker of Lynn Maxwell’s at Seneca Hill Manor nursing home shouted, “Bye, Lynn” as police led her from court. Lanza began shouting back. The shouting continued in the parking lot as the Maxwells were driven to jail.
Prosecutor Moody was satisfied with the sentence, but not the outcome. “The only thing that would be satisfying would be if (Erin) was happy and healthy.”
Colleen Scott runs the website Justice4Erin.com and has been a daily presence at the trials of the Maxwells and Alan Jones. “I just wish (the punishment) could be more. I just think parents don’t treat children that way.”