Lynn Maxwell asserted that Erin Maxwell was never endangered by the smell of the urine of more than 60 cats and by bedroom doors that locked on the outside.
“There was nothing,” she said as prosecutor Mark Moody grilled her, “that was a threat to her.”
Lynn Maxwell testified for more than three hours Wednesday night, following up on nearly three hours of initial testimony Tuesday night. She and her husband, Lindsey, are charged with endangering the life of Erin, who police say was sexually assaulted and murdered in the home last August 29. Lynn and Lindsey are not charged in Erin’s death. Lynn’s son, Alan Jones, will go on trial for murder in September.
Lynn Maxwell said that basic cleanliness was observed in the home. She said she washed bedsheets every week or two and that she checked Erin’s bedroom window every Sunday to make sure it was opening freely. That window was her fire escape, Lynn Maxwell said.
Evidence photos taken two days after Erin’s death show Erin’s bedsheets discolored, with one blanket having a large hole in it. Maxwell said Erin put nail polish on her pillow and on a bedsheet. Some of the discoloration came from Erin having vomited on the sheet a couple of years before, she said. One of the dogs must have put the hole into the blanket, Maxwell said, noting that the blanket was a favorite of Erin’s. “She…she…didn’t want to part with the blanket,” Maxwell said in a halting voice, dabbing tears from her eyes.
Maxwell asserted that the cat feces shown in police photos on August 31 were not present in the home on August 29, the day Erin died.
Prosecutor Moody attacked Maxwell’s claim that there was no money to buy a proper door for Erin’s bedroom, which would have to have been custom-made because of the non-standard width of the doorway. Moody tacked to an easel a collage of photos from the Maxwell home, showing a brand new back deck and outdoor furniture (bought as a Mother’s Day present with the couple’s tax return), two new laptops and various electronic equipment, most of it purchased in 2008.
“But Erin’s door — not a consideration to be purchased?” asked Moody.
“No,” Maxwell answered. “Because it would have interfered with the air flow in her room.”
Maxwell said the half-door and screen-and-chicken-wire second door allowed heat to get into Erin’s room in the winter. Moody suggested buying a portable heater.
Maxwell has given four reasons for the doors and locks:
- To keep cats out of Erin’s room;
- To keep Erin out of cleaning supplies and out of Lynn’s jewelry, which she said Erin took to give to classmates;
- To give her her privacy;
- To allow heat to enter her room in the winter.
Moody also went after Maxwell’s handling of the cleaning supplies issue, asking why Maxwell didn’t lock up the cleaning supplies if Erin was doing hazardous things with them. There was no place to lock them up, Maxwell answered. Moody then showed Maxwell a photo of a box for the new back deck, which was used to lock up the deck furniture cushions.
“So it’s important to lock the deck cushions, but not the cleaning supplies?” he asked.
“Erin was getting better” about not getting into the cleaning chemicals, Maxwell answered, and, after a long pause, said, “I guess at the time it was more important to put a lock on the deck box.”
Maxwell said she never noticed an odor of cat urine in the home except if the cat litter boxes needed to be changed. She admitted that a co-worker told her that she smelled like urine in March, 2008, and she changed clothes.
“Would you consider that a healthy environment for someone,” Moody asked, after showing Maxwell the police photos of piles of cat feces in the master bedroom.
“It didn’t bother anyone,” she said at first, but later admitted that “I probably put my health in danger” because the feces had piled up in the weeks after her mother’s death, which sent her into a depression. She said, however, that Lindsey was responsible for cleaning the litter boxes.
The cross-examination of Lynn Maxwell continues Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. in Palermo Town Court.