With a missing teenager now found dead, nearly 19 months after her disappearance, Jeff Stock was merely a person of interest.
Having been seen at her father’s residence and one of the last people to see Megan Maxwell alive, Stock was questioned early on in the case.
Maxwell, 19, was last seen at her father’s residence around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 26, 2009. Newport police officers investigated a domestic disturbance at the home, which resulted in the arrest of a female.
The incident did not involve either Jeff Stock or Maxwell
Newport Police Department Sgt. Derek Wright, who was a patrolman then, recalled being one of the officers who went Steve Maxwell’s residence early that Sunday morning, and recounted that as they were leaving the scene, Megan Maxwell arrived in her Mitsubishi Eclipse.
Just a few hours later, Wright was on his way home after his shift ended, when he passed a burning vehicle on East Highway 25/70 near an abandoned building not far from the old Riverside Truck Stop. He reported the burning vehicle to the Cocke County Sheriff’s Office.
Building a Case in the days after Megan disappeared: During the afternoon hours of April 27, 2009, Chief Woods met with Lisa Maxwell, Megan’s mother, to receive information about her missing daughter and Woods went to work right after.
Jeffery Stock became only a person of interest after officers confirmed he was at Steve Maxwell’s residence the morning Megan disappeared. Once investigators learned Stock was there and looked into his criminal history, they determined he was a sex offender and had not registered in Tennessee.
Stock was arrested nearly 24 hours following the disappearance of the teenager, taken into custody at 3:46 a.m. on for violating the sex offender registry. Stock had failed to register as a sex offender after relocating from Florida.
He was released from the Cocke County Jail Annex on April 29, but turned into the federal officials.
Stock pled guilty on Sept. 21, 2009 in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Greeneville for the offense. Federal Judge Ronnie Greer sentenced Stock to six years, to be served at a federal correctional facility in Tucson, Arizona.
With Stock in federal custody, Chief Woods continued gathering the evidence he needed to give to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
It was already determined by Sgt. Wright that Stock was at Steve Maxwell’s residence at the same time Megan Maxwell was on that fateful April 2009 night. That evening, Stock’s truck was towed from the residence residence and Stock became belligerent. Officers questioned Stock, but he was released.
After investigating the scene where Megan Maxwell’s Mitsubishi Eclipse was found burned along Highway 25/70, Woods was able to determine that Stock had a friend who lived near the scene.
Woods and TBI Special Agent J.J. Sipos went to the friend’s residence and interviewed him. Woods said the male attempted to lie and deny that Stock was ever at his residence, but the friend later admitted that Stock had been there, and he then cooperated with law enforcement.
A subsequent search of the residence revealed wet clothes disposed in a trashcan that Stock was wearing the morning of April 26. It was also determined that Stock borrowed a gas can from the male’s residence.
In another interview with the friend, he told Woods that Stock arrived at his residence soaking wet, and when he questioned why he was wet, Stock allegedly just rolled his eyes and asked him for a lighter.
Both the friend, and others present at the home, confirmed that Stock was alone and he arrived in a “red, newer vehicle.”
An accurate description of Maxwell’s vehicle was not given to law enforcement, however.
The friend told law enforcement officers he suspected Stock was impaired and wanted to do whatever to make him leave the residence. As the male drove Stock to his parents’ home, the two engaged in conversation and Stock allegedly told him, “My life is over.”
Investigators determined the acquaintance did not play a role in the murder and he was not charged.
Several other people were interviewed in the process by several investigators. Those investigators included Newport Police Captain Jason Ramsey, Special Agent Sipos, U.S. Marshal’s, and David Hutchinson and Tracy Ivy, both with the District Attorney’s Office.
Another interview that Woods conducted was with the driver and passenger of the tow truck that came to Steve Maxwell’s residence on that fateful night and towed Stock’s vehicle. The female passenger stated as they sat in the driveway, she recalled seeing Megan Maxwell inside the home and she was closing the curtains.
The couple could not confirm any other details Megan Maxwell or when they last saw Stock.
Woods and other investigators conducted a series of interviews with several other people. Woods stated he wanted to interview anyone who had any connection to Stock. Some of those people were in Newport while some were in Indiana, Stock’s home state.
Video surveillance linked Terry Stock: When Woods questioned Terry Stock, Jeff’s father who was also indicted, about where he was the night Jeff Stock set Megan Maxwell’s vehicle on fire, Terry responded, “At home and in bed.”
During the course of the investigation, Woods obtained search warrants in order to get several surveillance videos from businesses in downtown Newport. One of the videos revealed Terry driving his vehicle on East Broadway toward Del Rio.
As he continued to question Terry Stock, Woods recalled that he stopped mid-sentence and said “I think I need a lawyer.”
Terry Stock was later indicted by a Cocke County Grand Jury for being an accessory after the fact, aggravated perjury and filing false reports.
Interviews in Arizona: With Jeff Stock serving his six-year sentence in a correctional facility in Tucson, that meant there was a lot of traveling for Woods and other investigators, as they searched to bring him to justice for the murder of Maxwell.
Woods recalled flying to out west on three separate occasions with different people, and once by himself, in order to conduct interviews with Jeff Stock.
The now chief deputy recalled that in each interview, Jeff Stock was not cooperative. At times he became belligerent and very emotional, especially as he attempted to defend his father.
Woods said once he and other investigators laid out the proof they had, which included being present at Steve Maxwell’s residence the morning Megan Maxwell went missing, using the information given to Woods by Stock’s friend and conducting interviews with a few others, Stock finally confessed to burning the Mitsubishi vehicle and disposing her body.
Stock never admitted to murdering her.
On Oct. 31, 2011, Chief Woods presented his evidence to a Cocke County Grand Jury. The jury returned the indictments days later, charging Stock with murder of the first degree, theft of property valued over $1,000, rape and arson.
(Editor’s Note: Today’s story marked the beginning of Part 2 of Remembering Megan Maxwell. The remaining articles in the series will primarily cover Jeffery Lee Stock, the man convicted of murdering Maxwell after she was last seen at her father’s residence on April 26, 2009.
The remaining three articles in this series will include how Cocke County Chief Deputy Derrick Woods gathered the evidence in order for the District Attorney’s Office to move forward and prosecute Stock. It will also include Stock’s peculiar court appearances and a special feature of where everyone who was involved is today, 10 years later.)