Maxwell: Police Made Errors In Drafting My Statements

<p>Lynn Maxwell</p>
Lynn Maxwell

Lynn Maxwell testified that the two statements she gave to State Police about Erin Maxwell’s death and living conditions in her home contained errors.

Maxwell wrapped up three evenings of testimony in Palermo Town Court Thursday.  She and husband Lindsey are charged with endangering Erin’s welfare by having locks on the outside of Erin’s two bedroom doors and by having widespread cat feces and a strong cat urine odor in the home.  They are not accused in Erin’s death; stepbrother Alan Jones goes on trial in September for murder and sexual assault.

Maxwell was pressed about the statements she gave to police on August 30, the day after Erin died, and on September 11.

Maxwell has said in court that Erin “could have pushed on the hinge side of the door and it would have come right off.”  Prosecutor Mark Moody asked her why that wasn’t in the statement she gave to police, which she reviewed and then signed.

“I can’t say I was in a state to have thoroughly read and edited it,” she said, noting that on August 30, she had been awake for 44 hours and that her stepdaughter had just died. “There are some errors.”

“Is it accurate or is it not?” Moody asked after some back-and-forth about the statement.  “It is not,” she replied.

But, said Moody, the same information is in the statement given September 11.

“You mistakenly told the State Police twice that Erin could push her way through the door?” he asked.

“Obviously, she could not walk through the screens,” Maxwell answered.  “I believe there was misinterpretation in what I said.”



Maxwell asserted that there was not a flea problem in the house, that only a couple of the cats in the home had fleas.  Two witnesses have said they were covered in fleas during brief visits to the home.

The number of cats in the home had to be settled once and for all Thursday evening, after Maxwell said there “may be 35” cats in the home.  The statement contradicted her own testimony, in which she said that there were about 60 cats closed into the master bedroos and another 9 cats that were allowed the run of the house.  The Oswego County SPCA said it took 63 cats from the home on August 31, each one handed out of the house by a State Trooper (though there is contradiction there as well; the State Police gave the SPCA a receipt that day that noted 43 live cats were given that day, along with 20 dead kittens wrapped and stored in the home’s freezer).

The two sides agreed, after a closed door session, on the earlier number of 60 cats in the bedroom and 9 more in the house.

Maxwell had said in earlier testimony that there wasn’t money to replace Erin’s makeshift doors with a real door because it would have to have been custom-made.  Moody then showed her pictures of the outdoor deck and outdoor furniture they had just bought, along with recently-purchased laptop computers.

Thursday night, she clarified that those purchases were either made with a tax return, or with a credit card.

Maxwell’s son, Brian Belrad, testified next. (His given name was Brian Jones, but after his parents’ divorce, he took his wife’s family’s name when he got married.)

Belrad asserted that the home was “cluttered” and smelled of “old smoke” and “a little bit of ammonia”.  The smell “wasn’t overwhelming,” he said.  “I could tolerate it.”  He said he and his wife never discussed conditions in the home, a statement that contradicts his wife’s earlier testimony.

He backed his mother’s tesimony, saying he had seen Erin easily open her locked door by pushing gently on it and sliding her hand through the gap to flick the lock open.

Belrad explained that he and his wife had talked regularly about asking to take custody of Erin “for short or longer periods”.  He said Erin was self-destructive, cutting her own hair and destroying her own clothes.  “We thought we might be able to provide a better environment” for her, he said.

Belrad said that he was the first family member allowed back into the home and found that State Police had “destroyed” it, breaking glass objects and tearing things off a shelf.  He also said that he watched as SPCA workers showed captured cats in a stack of cat carriers to reporters but, when the reportes left, took the cats in the cat carriers back into the home.  The cat carriers, he said, came back out empty.

His testimony continues at 7:00 p.m. Friday.