Woman Pleads Guilty in Australian Cult Sex Murder
("FoxNews," January 14, 2008)
Sydney, Austrailia - A man who believed he had supernatural sexual powers killed his partner's best friend after encouraging her to sleep with him to exorcise her demons.
David Maxwell Shepherd, 38, was jailed for 19 years after admitting to murdering Malissa Mayfield at her Bossley Park home, in southwest Sydney in June 2006.
Mayfield, 29, died in hospital four days after being strangled in her home as her two young daughters lay sleeping just yards away.
The bizarre details of the murder were made public for the first time Monday, with the NSW Supreme Court lifting a suppression order on the case following a guilty plea by Shepherd's de facto wife, Angela Wells.
Wells was due to stand trial for murder Monday, but prosecutors accepted a guilty plea to the lesser charge of being an accessory after the fact.
Wearing a purple shirt, with her short brown hair in a neat ponytail, the 29-year-old showed no emotion as she stood and quietly responded "guilty, your honor'' to knowingly assisting Shepherd after Mayfield's murder.
Wells was a longtime friend of Mayfield, and godmother to her youngest daughter.
Shepherd met Mayfield through Wells, and the three of them bonded over a shared interest in the supernatural.
''(Shepherd) told the deceased that he had psychic powers and that he could remove her bad demons by sleeping with her,'' Justice Peter Hidden said when sentencing Shepherd in December.
"Ms. Wells had also told her that the offender could give her pleasure, and that if she had sex with him all the evil spirits would go.''
Shepherd and Mayfield slept together a few times, but Justice Hidden said she soon became afraid of the "hysteria'' of his beliefs and tried to sever contact.
''(Shepherd) would phone the deceased and say to her such things as 'Don't go to work, you're going to get killed' and 'Something bad's going to happen','' the judge said.
Shepherd told police he heard voices, including one named Johnny, which Wells also heard.
He and Mayfield became close, and Shepherd said he confided in her that his estranged wife, who was not named, had previously accused him of sexually interfering with their teenage daughter.
Shepherd said Mayfield then began blackmailing him with the information, and Wells urged him to "sort her out.'.
''(Wells) ... said that Johnny had told her that both the deceased and her daughter had to be raped and murdered ... or they would send more demons to him,'' Justice Hidden said.
Justice Hidden said the circumstances involved "some bizarre interest in the supernatural'' but he could make `"no firm finding about why (Shepherd) went to the dead woman's house that morning, or about what it was which triggered the attack.'.
Wells is accused only of assisting Shepherd after the attack, with the prosecution today withdrawing the murder charge against her.
Shepherd was jailed for at least 15 years, with his maximum 20-year term due to expire in 2025.
Barrister John Doris, acting for Wells, said he would push for a non-custodial sentence, and requested she undergo a psychiatric assessment.
Justice Michael Grove continued her bail to face a sentencing hearing in the same court on Feb. 22.
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