Arrest Made After Young Mother Killed, Lake Bridgeport Home Set on Fire

Motive, connections unclear in young woman's murder

Investigators in Wise County say they've made an arrest in the murder of a young mother killed inside her Lake Bridgeport home before it was set on fire earlier this summer.

Rodney Aric Maxwell, 39, was arrested shortly before noon Friday during a traffic stop south of Decatur, according to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.

Maxwell, Akin said, has been charged with capital murder and two counts of arson in connection with the death of 32-year-old Lauren Whitener.

Akin did not say Friday what led investigators to develop Maxwell as a suspect in Whitener's death, what the motive may have been or if he had any connection to the woman.

Firefighters found Whitener's body after putting out a fire at her home in the early morning hours of July 4.

Akin said in July that Whitener's 7-year-old son and her roommate were both gone for the night, but there was a block party there with people coming and going the night of July 4. Akin said early on in the investigation that deputies identified multiple potential suspects and that they interviewed more than three dozen people during the first hours of the investigation.

Whitener's family described her as a devoted mother, a woman of deep faith and an Army veteran who served on the front lines in Afghanistan. She was a surgical scrub nurse for Wise Health System and at her recent graduation, her mother gave her a sign with the words: "I love the person I've become because I fought to become her."

Akin said in July that despite the fire, they did find evidence that's being processed in crime labs in Dallas and Austin.

Maxwell is being held in the Wise County Jail. A bond amount was not listed and it's not clear if he's obtained an attorney.

The Texas Rangers and Tarrant County Arson Task Force are helping Wise County with the investigation. Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 940-627-8477.

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