Tulsa burglary suspect's trial goes to the jury

Tuesday, January 13th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Jurors will decide Wednesday whether Ernest Lee is guilty of trying to break into an elderly woman's east Tulsa home.

We first did this story in March, because two of the women's neighbors wrestled the suspect and sat on him until police arrived. News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright was at the trial Tuesday.

A lot has happened in Mildred Maxwell's life since we met her last spring when a man tried to break into her house. At the time, she called her neighbors across the street, which ran over, tackled the man in her back yard, wrestled him to the ground and sat on him until police arrived.

This time, we meet with her just hours before she's to testify in the man's trial. At the time of the break-in, Mildred was 86 and caring for her invalid daughter, Shirley. Shirley died in May, leaving Mildred living at home alone. “It's really hard. I try to keep up daily activities and some days, I do fairly well and some days, not so good."

Mildred's health has gone downhill; she was in the hospital just last week and is currently on a heart monitor. She says the burglary has certainly made her more on edge. "It bothers you. I try not to let it, but it really does. I'm afraid, I won't deny it."

Despite all those setbacks, Mildred went to the Tulsa County courthouse to testify in Ernest Lee's trial. She told the jury about seeing a man on her front porch, then hearing glass breaking on her backdoor, even though she never saw the man's face.

The neighbors who came to her rescue that day also testified, they said they did see his face and identified Ernest Lee, a man with a record of more than a half dozen arrests. That is one of the reasons Mildred felt she must do her part. "At first, I thought, I can't to this. Then, I thought, I've got to, I want to be strong." Being strong is all anyone could ask.

The prosecution called four witnesses Tuesday; Ernest Lee's attorney didn't call any. The jury begins deliberating on Wednesday.

Mildred plans to sell her home and move in with a daughter.