Inside the mind of America's JEKYLL 'N' HYDE; Accused of a motel guest's murder, maid Juanita Maxwell said it was "another of her personalities" who was the killer. Was she insane or just plain evil?
They knew the hand wielding the table lamp which had crushed the victim's skull belonged to maid Juanita Maxwell. She told them so herself.
But detectives STILL had an amazing whodunnit to tackle. And the case was to challenge some of the best legal brains in the US...
Because Juanita claimed that she had a split personality disorder - a modern day Jekyll and Hyde.
She said it wasn't HER - that is, Juanita - who had committed the crime. It was one of her other personalities, called Wanda.
And Juanita couldn't be blamed for what Wanda did because she had no control over her whatsoever.
Eventually a judge had to decide whether 23-year-old Juanita was an evil killer who'd thought up an incredible excuse or whether she was genuinely insane - thanks to a nightmare upbringing.
Prosecutors insisted that Juanita had known exactly what she was doing.
The murder, they pointed out in court, was both ghastly and unjustifiable.
Inez, 73, was staying at the Palmland Motel in Fort Myers, Florida, when she had occasion to borrow a ballpoint pen from Juanita.
Juanita later wanted it back and knocked at the old woman's door.
According to the evidence, Inez snapped "What pen?" and shut the door in Juanita's face.
The maid knocked again. The same thing happened.
Then Inez was found by another motel employee lying dead beside her bed.
A towel had been wrapped around her throat and her skull had been smashed in.
Juanita was in the adjoining room in a confused and groggy state. She said she had fallen asleep and she was adamant that she - Juanita - knew nothing about Inez's violent demise. It was Wanda who had done it because Wanda was angry at the old lady's rudeness about the pen.
Juanita told police and doctors that Wanda had first surfaced when she was about five years old.
Psychiatrists argued in court that Wanda was a defence thrown up by Juanita's mind because she had suffered hell at the hands of her alcoholic mother, Ossie Benjamin.
Wanda was much tougher than Juanita. SHE was the side of the stricken little girl who withstood her mother's violence and sexual abuse and endured being raped at the age of eight.
Wanda took over and survived when Juanita got locked out of the house when her mother entertained men.
Wanda lived when Ossie tried to strangle her daughter with a belt when she was 12.
The schoolgirl had later crept back inside the house to take revenge on her mother.
But she blacked out only to wake up later alongside the bodies of six kittens. All of their necks had been broken. "Wanda came out and stopped me from killing my mother," Juanita told a psychotherapist before her court hearing.
"It was Wanda's way of preventing it by taking my anger out on the kittens."
Wanda also took over when Juanita's mother tried to stab her with a pair of scissors.
And Wanda endured the misery when Juanita lived on the streets but sneaked back at night to sleep on her mother's porch.
Wanda was a bit like the proverbial protective big sister.
In later years, the judge heard, Juanita got more personalities - all
very different, right down to their religions. For example, Juanita was a Muslim but Wanda was a Baptist.
Anna was a stammering little girl who loved stuffed toys; Trisha a dedicated jogger; Jennifer a flirtatious Southern belle who liked sexy get-ups; Linda was a bookworm.
Wanda had caused big trouble before the Inez killing, Juanita claimed.
She had robbed a couple of banks, clutching a sawn-off shotgun!
But WAS Juanita really insane?
Multiple personality disorder is an extremely rare and very controversial complaint only formally recognised by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980.
Many so-called cases turn out to be fake.
But experts believe that, when reality is unbearable, the personality CAN splinter and create other "selves" as a means of escaping the pain.
Sufferers of multiple personality disorder have what are tantamount to blackouts - when another "self" takes over.
Juanita said she sometimes heard ringing in her head or had a violent outburst followed by amnesia...
How, defence lawyers argued, could Juanita be responsible if she honestly had no memory of what Wanda had done?
Nonsense, said the prosecutors, it was the deliberate killing of a vulnerable old lady and Juanita deserved a severe punishment for it.
What do you think? Cast Your X: Juanita Maxwell was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
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|Publication:||Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1998|
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