Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jury Hears Defense in Trial for Slaying Lawyer: Defendant Left before Killing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jury Hears Defense in Trial for Slaying Lawyer: Defendant Left before Killing

Article excerpt

Rick Maxey had sex in the back of his car with Leslie O'Neal, a hitchhiker he picked up on a warm night in March 1995. But, his attorney says, that was all.

Maxey did not rape the woman or kill her or dump her body in a lake, defense attorney Charles James told a jury Thursday. Maxey had sex with the woman in front of his house, lent his car to friend Shawn Whitsett and said goodbye. He then walked inside, watched television and went to bed, James said.

But, for a day and a half, Whitsett, 22, told a different story. In the murder trial of Maxey, 25, in St. Charles County Circuit Court, Whitsett pointed the finger at his friend. He said Maxey masterminded the plan that led to the death of O'Neal, 29, a waitress and mother of three. Whitsett has already pleaded guilty of second-degree murder and the prosecution's recommended sentence is life in prison. But the attorney representing Maxey spent the last two days calling Whitsett a liar. "He has lied and lied and lied," James said. "He has changed his story. Shawn Whitsett is our killer. Rick Maxey is not. There are glaring inconsistencies." James spent Wednesday and Thursday jumping around from Whitsett's high school days to the night of the murder to the weeks that followed, accusing him of lying and changing his story at the urging of prosecutors, detectives and psychologists. The biggest lie of all, he says: Whitsett's story that Maxey was at the lake when O'Neal was raped and killed. James says Maxey was in bed at the time, and he says he'll call Maxey's stepfather to the witness stand as proof. In all, James accused Whitsett of lying about everything from having sex with his girlfriend that night to whether O'Neal unbuttoned her shirt. He also challenged the witness about whether the victim was beaten, whether she wanted drugs or was willing to give them drugs for a ride. James said Whitsett had been upset because a former girlfriend had begun a relationship with Maxey. He said Whitsett was also upset and angered about repeated rejections from girls throughout his young life. "You had a rage about women mistreating you," James said to Whitsett. "That rage was building inside your gut and you couldn't stand it. …

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