In 2008, Brian Wothers of Ormond Beach was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting death near Graham Swamp of 26-year-old Jeffrey Maxwell, a traveling construction worker then on assignment in Palm Coast.
He’d been charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery. After the bench trial before Circuit Judge Kim Hammond, Wothers was ordered to a state mental hospital. In 2012, he was allowed to leave the hospital for a residential facility with 24-hour supervision called Passageway Residence, in Miami. That meant he was no longer confined. In 2014, the court allowed him to move into an apartment of his own, with five days a week supervisory check-ins at Passageway, monthly home visits from the organization and monitoring of his medication.
Today, Wothers, appearing by phone from Miami with his lawyer David Glasser in a Flagler County courtroom, was asking the judge to grant him permission to reduce supervision to two days a week, pending the lifting of almost all supervisory protocols so he could move permanently to Delaware or Maryland, where he has family, and where he’s been allowed to spend up to 10 days a month.
Circuit Judge Dennis Craig–filling in for Terence Perkins, since Craig had to carry out a sentencing today locally–asked Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis what he thought of the arrangement.
“I’m not thrilled judge,” Lewis said.
“That’s kind of the same feeling I have about it,” Craig said.
“But at some point,” Lewis continued, “we kind of need to trust the professionals who say that this is what is appropriate in that situation. They’ve been working with him for a long time so if this is what they’re telling you and us this is the appropriate method at this point, I’m going to trust that. Do I love it, no. But sometimes we have to step out and do things we’re not super comfortable with when other people recommend them.”
“I’m kind of in the same position. I’m agreeable but uneasy,” Craig said.
After conferring with an official from the Miami facility, who was in a room with Wothers–and who had been supervising him–Craig agreed to change Wothers’s conditions. It was the latest step in what appears to be the rehabilitation to society of Wothers, now 36, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he’d been assigned to a motor unit. He’d been discharged because of post-traumatic stress. At his bench trial before Hammond, the judge had ruled that the murder Wothers was accused of was the result of flashbacks caused by PTSD.
The morning of May 26, 2006, two employees of a land-clearing company had parked their car at Graham Swamp and walked across Old Kings Road to their job site. On their way they noticed a black hat dropped on mulch, then a brown flip-flop partially buried, then north in the brush, they noticed a man, his face covered in blood. He wore a white t-shirt and boxers, his blue jeans lying at his feet. He’d been shot. They called 911.
The man was Jeffrey Maxwell. He was from Denison, Texas. He’d been staying at the Sleep Inn in Palm Coast, part of a larger work crew working on water towers and the like. His roommate told investigators that Maxwell had tried to convince him to go clubbing in Daytona Beach. Harvey didn’t want to go: they had an early flight the next day, out of Orlando. Maxwell went with other people from the motel, and met Wothers at a club.
Wothers and Maxwell drove back to Flagler early the morning of the 26th. Wothers would later call his father and tell him he might have killed a man: Maxwell had passed out in his truck and had acted “weird” when he’d woken up, according to the charging affidavit. He’d shot him with his M-4 rifle. He was arrested the next day and held at the county jail until his trial.
Wothers, who lives on $4,000 a month in government benefits, is on medication to treat PTSD and depression, according to court papers. A January motion to reduce his supervision notes that “during the past 5 years except for some mild episodes, [Wothers] has been psychiatrically stable.” An October 2017 report by Kathy Lopez, his case manager, noted that he “needs to continue remaining medication compliant and meeting with his psychiatrist on a regular basis in order to maintain his mental health stability.” (Hammond in 2008 had ordered Wothers’s medical files and history to remain open because the judge considers the information important to help with broader understanding of what veterans of war suffer, and what medical issues they contend with on the way to recovery.) “Mr. Wothers enjoys spending his free time with family, reading, and volunteering,” Lopez’s report continues. The projected move to Maryland is to enable him to live with family on 62 acres he is inheriting.
Lopez was on the phone with Craig today, saying again that there’s been no issues with his treatment.
“Your feeling is Mr. Wothers is ready for this and he doesn’t pose any issues for either himself or the community?” Craig asked her.
“Correct,” Lopez said.
When Lewis asked her if Wothers has complied with all protocols and if there’d been any behavioral issues, Lopez’s reply was: “Nothing significant, no.” She was not asked to elaborate.
Wothers was last in Flagler last January, when he appeared in court as part of a prior motion and testified at length. He did not testify today, except for once addressing the judge at the end of the hearing: “Thank you very much, sir,” Wothers told Craig.
Maxwell had a 4-year-old son at the time of the shooting.
So these two strangers met and went clubbing together, slept together, and then this veteran guy kills the man he just slept with? And now he is going free? Is that what I just read?! So how did this man who was discharged with PTSD have a weapon? Why was he allowed to own a gun when he was known to have PTSD?
At what point in this article did you come to the conclusion that they “slept together”? Let me ask you this, if you were headed back to your motel from a bar and had to pee, do you think you’d be doing that with your pants buttoned and zipped? Here’s an idea!! Maybe Jeff got out of the vehicle to relieve himself and before he was able to button and zip his pants he was shot with an M4 rifle!! But of course your first thought is that they were sleeping together…. Get your mind out of the gutter and have some respect. 🙄
John Dolan esq. says
At $4,000.00 per month from uncle sam you can call me crazy too.
Concerned Citizen says
Veteran or not PTSD or not he shot and killed someone then got away with it. Now he is going to go free. So now we are giving free passes to anyone who can act insane?
I’m sorry but this just doesn’t sit right. I mean no disrespect to our Vets. I myself served and thankfully came home OK. I understand there are those out there who aren’t and I hope they are getting help.
This man went “clubbing” with a complete stranger then just shot and killed him. It wasn’t self defense it wasn’t combat. He just shot and killed someone.
Then he goes to trial and says hey I’m a Vet and I have PTSD. Throw down the mental health card and declare me insane.
I have friends and family who are Vets and have PTSD and they don’t go around killing people. I know each case is different but there is also this.
There are just people who are mean and are ass-hats in this world. Having a weapon makes you feel big and powerful and you just have to use it. This guy did and now someone didn’t get to go home because of it.
It’s a damn shame that if he is “acting normal” again then they can’t go back recharge him and retry him. Let’s stop playing the mental health so much and start holding people accountable for their actions.
Something is wrong here
Katie Semore says
What is wrong here is that the above people don’t know what they are talking about. There has been a whole battery of mental health and medical personnel working with this veteran for the past 10-12 years as well as he was discharged from the military because of his mental illness.
$4,000 a month is a small amount for having your mental stability destroyed in service to one’s country. How much would you sell your sanity for?
As for why did he have a gun? Maybe those who support that there should be little to no regulations or restrictions to the second amendment would like to explain it. After all, the second amendment doesn’t speak to one’s mental health.
Why do you assume he was allowed to own a weapon? Marijuana is not legal but people have it. Just because someone has a gun who shouldnt have a gun doesnt mean the government is just allowing crazys to have guns. And the two did NOT sleep together. There is an american hero named Chris Kyle (who we all know) who was murdered trying to help a ptsd sufferer. Should that guy get off like this guy? No! Vet or no Vet. Prison or no prison this guy belongs in an instution of some kind for the remainder of his life.
First off, @concerned citizen, don’t make such broad and ignorant statements. I have known HUNDREDS of people who lawfully owned weapons and never, EVER, even threatened someone with them. It’s extremely hateful and ignorant to say someone who has one just wants to hurt people. You’re welcome to have your own opinions but you are not holier than thou, sorry. Also, no American can legally own an M4 rifle, as that’s a select-fire rifle that’s ONLY available to active duty military personnel currently deployed/stationed. On a final note, this man should not have had access to any firearm given his mental state. Tragic that a life was lost.
A strange case indeed. Most patients with PTSD are NOT homicidal.
Well now. Another Daniel Noble type. Remember the would be mass shooter from European Village 4 years ago? He also pulled the ptsd card and got away with 7 years probation while facing 35+ years in prison. He was convicted of a felony though but didn’t face jail time. Veterans Affairs directive clearly states that if you’re convicted of a violent felony, you will loose your benefits. Wonder if he did….. this is BS. I know plenty of Disabled Vets with PTSD who don’t go around killing people.
Steve Ward says
I cant wait 2 move back to the CITY where its safe lmfao lol lmao
Katie Semore says
“I know plenty of Disabled Vets with PTSD who don’t go around killing people.”
That is a ridiculous and uninformed statement.
Everyone who has or had cancer haven’t died from it, but some do. Everyone who has had a heart attack doesn’t die from it, but some do.
a tiny manatee says
Why do you guys hate veterans, he served to protect your freedom and he deserves your support.
So Katie Semore are you saying what he did was ok? Kill an innocent person?
Of course I did not say that. Reread what I wrote if you believe that is what I implied. There has been no indication that any of those posting in this tread have any idea what this man’s mental health is, what he saw and did in combat and how it affected him, yet they have decided that he really is just faking the PTSD and that it was just a lame excuse for what did happen. There is a reason that there are so many veterans suffering from PTSD and committing suicide at a much higher rate than those people who have not been involved in the wars of the past 17 years or so.
I don’t know what happened, I haven’t seen the evidence presented at trial where he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Best I can tell, neither has anyone else who posted here and has insisted that the verdict was a miscarriage of justice.
Doesn’t it stand to reason if exposure to horrific circumstances and situations can bring on a mental illness that with the proper help, therapy and medications that maybe a person might be able to return to a productive and sane life?
This man signed a blank check for all of us, just maybe he should be entitled to a little compassion and understanding. That is not the same thing as saying it was ok what he did during a time when he was deemed to be clinically insane.
If he is still a danger to society he should not go free but if competent professional and medical personnel believe that he is no longer a danger to society or himself then maybe he has earned, with the hard work that it would have taken him, to get to this point he should be able to go with whatever life he is able to salvage from the nightmare he has been in for a long time.
All of you people who are trying to come up with excuses for this Veteran killing a man for no reason just think about if it was your friend, family member, or relative who god forbid could have lost their life at the hands of this Veteran affected by ptsd. I don’t think you would be defending him if this affected your life or family. Everyone is a know it all until it happens to them or affects them directly.
Kile kepler says
Actually the veteran went to the VA twice telling them something was wrong with him said he couldn’t sleep night terrors and they ignored him and said he was fine, maybe he wishes he could take it all back and considers himself a monster for it what he did is wrong. Maybe he saw things that people shouldn’t have to see at a young age and messed with his mind in the end his a human being like everyone else for you guys to sit here behind computers and judge a veteran who fought for everyone’s freedoms and lost a piece of himself over there I mean come on now. How would you people feel if even after serving in 2 wars and seeing your brothers and sisters who’ve spent 18 months over seas with dying beside you and then even after you’re home you’re not really home. I bet you with everything in me that veteran wishes he could go back and not do what he did, I bet he regrets it everyday of his life. But do not sit here and tell me this man is pulling mental health cards.
Maybe was made to look like this young murdered man was gay to in order to get less sympathy from the court system?
From a comment left on Jeffrey’s MySpace profile: “to those people on here that haven’t heard the bad news. Jeff was Murdered May 26th 2006 in Palm Coast Florida. He befriended someone at a nightclub and they partied together. (all that knew Jeff knew how much of a people person he was. he always made friends everywhere he went.) On the way back Jeff’s hotel Brian Christopher Wother shot Jeff 3x and put him in the woods less than a mile from the hotel. He was coming home the next day. ”
Better be very aware and careful who anyone meets in this county . Too many dangerous armed bully weirdos around, shooting just because they have the shotgun …and that the courts let go free.
Whether a veteran or not I feel this man is a danger to himself and society, if would have been a minority man I doubt would not have been treated the same way and released. Unfortunately there is no sure way that he abides by his treatment. Hope we do not see him committig another tragedy again! Better be aware of the killers amoing us: https://flaglerlive.com/tag/palm-coast-murders/