WOODVILLE — A hearing involving the custody of a 5-year-old girl whose father and stepmother were shot to death last month outside a Colmesneil church is expected to continue Friday, after an afternoon of testimony Wednesday.
Friends and family of Zavalla couple Nathan and Krystal Humphus Maddox, who were shot to death Jan. 18, packed one side of Tyler County Judge David Dunn’s courtroom Wednesday afternoon clad in neon green “Help Me Save My Daughter” shirts. The phrase became the motto of a social media campaign Nathan Maddox launched last year while trying to get custody of Madison from his ex-wife Kristen Westfall’s parents, Lloyd “Paul” and Letha Westfall.
The Westfalls, members of the media, and representatives of multiple state agencies filled the other side of the court as Child Protective Services Investigator Coy Collins took the stand, fielding questions led by CPS Region 5 attorney Jonathan Petix. Collins’ testimony centered on the reason Madison was removed from the Westfalls’ home three weeks ago and placed in foster care. Collins said it was mainly the perceived threat to Madison’s safety from the shooter or people who believe the Westfalls were involved in the deaths that took place around noon outside Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Colmesneil. Brad and Krystal Maddox had just finished a court-ordered supervised visit with Madison when the shooting occurred.
Family members on both sides of the courtroom sobbed as Madison’s video interview with Kim Hanks of Beaumont child advocacy center Garth House was played. In it, Madison described what she heard from inside the church at the time of the murders.
“All I can remember is gunshots and screams. I don’t know if it was Krystal or Nathan,” the girl said, adding that she and her grandmother crawled across the floor to hide in a church office. “(The lady) looked out and said, ‘Crystal is down.’ She said she didn’t see (my dad).”
“Who told you they died?” Hanks asked.
“No one, so I just knew,” Madison said.
The little girl seemed nervous as Hanks gently pressed her about how her family — the Westfalls and Nathan and Krystal — got along with each other.
“Krystal and Nathan didn’t get along with them because (I) was in that family. Dad and Krystal talked nice; they just couldn’t get along,” Madison said.
She then said that “with everything that went on” she “made a mistake” going to see her dad and stepmom.
“I was born at this home and (Nathan and Krystal) were not. That’s how it went wrong,” the little girl said, showing wisdom beyond her years, Hanks noted.
Following the deaths, authorities went into the Westfalls’ home twice, finding evidence to suggest Madison was in danger, according to testimony. That evidence included a baggie of meth and a syringe in Letha Westfall’s bedroom drawer, a .22 pistol left beside the bed Madison shared with her mother, and raw sewage flowing out onto the ground 50 feet from the Westfalls’ trailer.
Amy Bythewood, the attorney representing Letha Westfall, said her client had a reason for keeping the bag with meth residue, alleged to have been Kristen Westfall’s. She said Letha Westfall kept the bag as leverage to prevent Kristen Westfall from leaving with Madison. According to information heard in the courtroom, Kristen Westfall was out on bond for a possession of methamphetamine arrest.
Taking a front-row seat to the Wednesday hearing was Nathan’s father, Jim Maddox, who along with his wife, Jan, is vying for custody of Madison.
Lufkin attorney Ryan Deaton, who first represented Nathan and Krystal Maddox, is now representing Jim and Jan Maddox. Deaton told the court he believes the only people who had motive to kill Nathan and Krystal Maddox were the Westfalls.
“I believe the facts are real clear. The murderers are in this courtroom today,” Deaton said. “I assume CPS does not leave children in the hands of cold-blooded killers.”
Law enforcement authorities have not charged or implicated anyone in the murders.
Kristen and Letha Westfall declined comment following the court proceeding.
The custody hearing was set to continue at 10 a.m. Friday.
Jessica Cooley’s email address is email@example.com.