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After 6 Months In Jail Wise County District Attorney Drops Murder Case Against Rodney Aric Maxwell

WISE COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) — After dropping indictments against a man for the violent murder of his neighbor, the district attorney in Wise County says the arrest wasn't a mistake. Rodney Aric Maxwell is still the person investigators have the most evidence against, in the 2019 death of Lauren Whitener, Greg Lowery said. However, he also said he would have to look "much more" at the evidence, before trying to indict Maxwell again in the case.

Sheriff's investigators are now looking for someone new in the year-old case, after a DNA sample from Whitener contained the profile of an unknown person.

"I don't know who that third party is," Lowery said. "I just know it lessens the case against Mr. Maxwell."

Lauren Whitener
Lauren Whitener (credit: Facebook)

A neighbor to Whitener, Maxwell was accused of stabbing the woman to death, then setting fire to her and her home in Lake Bridgeport in the early morning hours of July 5, 2019.

Maxwell's attorney said his client had a relationship with Whitener, and cooperated with investigators over numerous interviews.

"He told them, I did not do this," said Barry Green. "And he told them, time and time again, the DNA will exonerate me."

Weeks after being arrested in September 2019, Green said investigators received a report on a DNA sample that showed a profile that did not match Maxwell. Green believes investigators didn't understand the report.

Maxwell stayed in jail through the end of the year, until Green was able to get his bond reduced in February so he could get out.

Then in July, prosecutors received another analysis of the same DNA evidence from the fall. This one they said clearly showed the profile of someone else, presenting the potential for a jury to doubt the charge against Maxwell if the case went to trial.

"Because if we take that before a jury and we have unidentified DNA, that doesn't match the defendant, that could be a problem," said Sheriff Lane Akin.

Lowery said it also doesn't match as many as 11 other people investigators had identified in connection with the case.

"Don't arrest him until you get the DNA analysis," Green said. "That does not seem to be rocket science to figure it out. And then once you get it, consult with somebody who knows how to read it. All this could have been avoided, all of it, and maybe a killer would have been found."

Akin said there is still other evidence that points to Maxwell, and believes strongly he will be indicted again.

And Lowery said there's no need for an apology to Maxwell for his time in jail

"At this point no," he said. "No, you know I'm not saying we made a mistake at this point, and when I say we made a mistake, that we arrested the wrong person. I don't believe that right now."

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