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BY HEATHER J. SMITH
Published: Monday, March 9, 2009 at 5:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 9, 2009 at 9:26 p.m
Andrea Maxwell, the 19-year-old charged with the 2007 stabbing death of her mother, pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
She will serve from 29 years to 36 years, five months active prison time for the murder of 47-year-old Judith Maxwell inside the family’s Warf Road home.
Maxwell’s co-defendant, Joe Lee Coleman, now 22, was sentenced last March to life in prison without parole. Her former boyfriend, he was placed in safekeeping at Central Prison before sentencing because of 37 prior suicide attempts.
Lengthy mental health evaluations led to the long wait for Maxwell’s case to go to court. Psychologists at Dorthea Dix Hospital finally deemed Maxwell competent to stand trial.
Dressed in a neon orange jumpsuit and fidgeting with her handcuffs, Maxwell provided an odd image in Davidson County Superior Court. Talking to defense attorney Charles Harp before the hearing began, her face was animated, her countenance sharp and intelligent.
She changed when Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown read the summary of Judith Maxwell’s murder. She sat with her head down, rocking circles in her chair.
Brown told the court that Maxwell and her mother interacted peacefully during most of the day on Nov. 17, 2007. They woke early and went shopping together at 10 a.m., and Maxwell was allowed to visit Coleman later in the day.
Judith Maxwell returned home and was greeted by her daughter. Brown said the pair talked until she heard Coleman call her daughter from upstairs.
“There was a rule that the defendant could not have Coleman in the house without her father there,” Brown said.
Maxwell and her mother began to argue. Brown said Maxwell told her mother she and Coleman planned to run away to Florida together.
“The victim told her, ‘No, you’re not,’” Brown said.
Maxwell’s mother was sitting on the couch, a laptop in front of her as she looked at shopping Web sites, Brown said. Maxwell left the living room and entered the kitchen, returning to the living room with a knife.
“The defendant started to stroke her mother’s hair,” Brown said.
Judith Maxwell was paying attention to the laptop computer, Brown said, when her daughter stuck the knife into the right side of the woman’s neck. The victim jumped up and ran to the door where Maxwell followed her and struck her with the knife again. Judith Maxwell then ran to the stairs where the defendant struck the victim again.
Brown said Judith Maxwell cried out to her daughter, saying, “Stop. Don’t do this. I love you. Stop.”
When Coleman came downstairs, Judith Maxwell was still breathing and Andrea Maxwell was headed to the kitchen for a knife she believed would work better. Brown said Coleman joined Maxwell in stabbing her mother. Autopsy reports indicated Judith Maxwell was stabbed in the heart and lungs and had hemorrhages of the eye that suggested she was strangled.
Robert Maxwell, Judith’s husband and the defendant’s father, returned home after 7 p.m. and found his wife’s body in the downstairs bathroom.
“He immediately yelled up to his daughter and asked what was going on,” Brown said. “The defendant feigned ignorance and said she didn’t know.”
As Robert Maxwell called 911, Coleman and Andrea Maxwell came downstairs and stood in the hallway, blocking his way to the door. Brown said Robert Maxwell told 911 dispatchers he feared the pair would hurt him.
Deputies took Coleman and Andrea Maxwell into custody shortly after arriving at the scene.
Brown said investigators found evidence that the two began planning a mass murder two weeks before and had begun hiding knives in Maxwell’s room. Coleman’s father told investigators he unwittingly gave the pair some knives, assuming they would return them.
“Your Honor, the fact that this defendant and the other defendant joined in the murder and planned a killing proves they conspired to commit first-degree murder,” Brown said.
Judge Tonya Wallace read Maxwell the terms of her plea agreement, asking her if she had taken any prescription drugs that day that might affect her in any way. Maxwell said she took an anti-anxiety medication the night before and three drugs, including antidepressants Wellbutrin and Celexa, that morning.
Harp said Maxwell had been prescribed medication and underwent counseling before the murder, but stopped taking the medications sometime before November 2007.
The Maxwell family declined to make a statement to the court, but the defendant herself chose to speak.
“On a lighter note,” Maxwell began, “they have pens attached to spoons (in the courtroom) and I still haven’t figured out why.”
After a look from Harp, she began again.
“I spend day after day after day thinking about this case and about my mom dying,” she said. “And it hurts worse than anything.
“I got caught up in a tangle of lies Joseph (Coleman) told me. He brainwashed me. I listened to him too much.
“He told me that my mom was going to kill me by poisoning me or take me to church and start brainwashing me. I became scared of my mother, but that’s no excuse for what I’ve done.”
In prison she got her mind clear, got away from Coleman’s influence and on the medication she needed. She realized then how much her mother meant to her, Maxwell said, and it was too late.
“I want to say to everybody who loved her my dad, my grandma, my aunts, my family I’m sorry,” Maxwell said.
Heather J. Smith can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 228 or at email@example.com.
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