By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE - A man serving jail time for kidnapping and raping a 9-year-old girl is now facing murder charges after police say he strangled two women and buried their remains.
The State Attorney's Office recently charged James Lee Maxwell, 44, with two counts of first-degree murder in two different homicides after police identified him as responsible for the deaths of Chasity Starr of Holly Hill and Pamela Will of South Daytona.
Public Safety Director Gerald Monahan said he sympathizes with the families of the victims.
"Our heartfelt sorrow and thoughts and prayers go out to them," he said.
Mr. Maxwell was charged two months after human remains were discovered in the backyard of his residence on Brandy Hills Drive. A DNA test on the body identified the victim as Chasity Starr, who was 27 at the time it was believed Mr. Maxwell murdered her on or about Jan. 15, 2011. She was reported missing from her Holly Hill residence on March 29, 2011, Mr. Monahan said.
Police said the investigation into Ms. Starr's murder identified Mr. Maxwell as also responsible for killing 48-year-old Pamela Will on or about Sept. 10, 2010. Ms. Will was reported missing from her South Daytona residence Sept. 24, 2010 and her body was found January 2011 in a ditch at the rear of International Trade Associates at West Tower Circle in Ormond Beach, where Mr. Maxwell was formerly employed.
When the victims' bodies were found, Lauretta Rogers, mother of missing Port Orange woman Laurel Rogers, feared the remains could be those of her daughter.
And although no one in Ms. Rogers' family personally knew Mr. Maxwell, the proximity of her family residence to Mr. Maxwell's was a concern to her.
"We (my family) just kept our prayers that anyone (police) found wasn't Laurel," she said in a phone interview. "But (Mr. Maxwell) is very close. He's not too far down the street from us."
Ms. Rogers said she understands the situation the families of Ms. Starr and Ms. Will are going through because of her difficulty facing every passing day without her daughter around.
"I know their hearts were breaking every day," she said. "You would never think you'd be in that position. Personally feeling that way, it's devastating. Your whole life is turned upside down. My heart goes out to them, my prayers are with them."
Police said an investigation remains ongoing to find additional evidence in the murders.
"We're not done," Mr. Monahan said. "We have more work to do and we will continue to do whatever we have to put this to a successful conclusion."
Mr. Maxwell has been held in the Volusia County Branch Jail on no bail since he was charged in December 2011 with child rape and abduction. Police said he kidnapped a 9-year-old girl after a party at her family's house and raped her.
According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Mr. Maxwell's criminal history dates back to an attempted murder in 1988. He pleaded guilty to the charges that stemmed from an incident in which he stabbed a prostitute in the heart with a knife and spent a year and a half in prison.
Records show after that, Mr. Maxwell had several burglary offenses. He has also been on drug and alcohol probation.
In a joint press conference with Port Orange police held recently, State Attorney R.J. Larizza described the murders as "chilling and very disturbing."
"Certainly one murder is one too many," he said, "but when you start getting into multiple murders, it raises our radar and our flags and causes serious concern."
Mr. Larizza also said it's "premature" to say if his office would pursue the death penalty against Mr. Maxwell, but said he would alert the news media when a decision is made.
Attempts to reach family members of Ms. Starr, Ms. Will and Mr. Maxwell before press time were unsuccessful.