If you are concerned about a child being neglected or abused, call Maine’s 24-hour hotline at 800-452-1999 or 711 to speak with a child protective specialist. Calls may be made anonymously. For more information, visit maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cw/reporting_abuse.
A Stockton Springs mother was charged with killing her 3-year-old son after an autopsy showed he had suffered a fractured spine, bruises on his arms, legs, belly and head, bleeding in his brain, a ruptured bowel and other injuries, according to a police affidavit filed Thursday.
When Jessica Williams, 35, brought her son, Maddox Williams, to Waldo County General Hospital on Sunday afternoon, she told staff members that he had been knocked down by a dog leash and kicked by his 8-year-old sister.
But Maddox wasn’t breathing when he got there, hospital employees later told Maine State Police detectives, and they weren’t able to resuscitate him.
The boy died at the hospital. The cause of his death was determined by the Maine Medical Examiner’s Office to be multiple blunt force trauma that was inflicted non-accidentally.
Maddox’s death has shaken many in Stockton Springs, the same community where 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy was beaten to death by her mother, Sharon Kennedy, and stepfather, Julio Carrillo, three years ago. It’s also the third time a parent has been charged in the death of a Maine child in less than a month.
Police pieced together what happened to Maddox prior to his death through interviews with people including Jessica Williams’ mother, Sherry Johnson; Maddox’s father, Andrew Williams; and Jason Trefethen, who lives in a camper on Cross Lane in Stockton Springs. Trefethen is the father of three of her children, who are 8, 4 and 2 years old. Altogether, Jessica Williams has five children.
Jessica Williams also lives at the Cross Lane address, though not in the camper, according to the affidavit.
Detectives weren’t able to speak with Jessica Williams herself for several days because they couldn’t find her until Wednesday, the same day she was arrested and charged with murder.
At that time, Jessica Williams told police that she had no idea how her son received such severe injuries. She said that Maddox did have a lot of bruises because he “bruised very easily and her kids play wild and crazy,” according to the affidavit.
Before they found her, however, they interviewed Trefethen, 43, who said that Maddox had been playing with the other children around 10 a.m. on Sunday. At about 10:30 a.m., Jessica Williams came to Trefethen to ask him to watch the kids so she could take Maddox to the hospital. According to Trefethen’s bail conditions for a prior matter, he is not allowed to enter Jessica Williams’ home or have contact with her, except to facilitate child care.
“Jason said when they left for the hospital, Maddox appeared ‘lethargic.’ Jason said Maddox was conscious and he said, ‘Bye, Maddox,’ and Maddox did not respond,” Maine State Police Detective Hugh Landry wrote in the criminal complaint for depraved indifference murder. “I asked Jason if Jessica was abusive towards Maddox and he replied, ‘You’ll have to ask her.’”
Meanwhile, Maddox’s 8-year-old sister told a detective that they had been playing together earlier that day.
“[She] said she and Maddox were running and holding hands and that Maddox fell and hit his head on a rock,” Landry wrote. “[The sister] said after Maddox hit his head, he went inside to get a drink.”
The 4-year-old brother told a caseworker from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services that Maddox was “faking a seizure,” according to the criminal complaint.
The next day, two detectives spoke with Andrew Williams, 30, who is currently an inmate at Knox County Jail in Rockland. He told them that his relationship with Jessica Williams was volatile and ended while she was pregnant with Maddox.
Andrew Williams told police that he had last seen his son on the weekend of April 10, at which time he noticed multiple bruises on Maddox’s back and a cut over one of his eyes. The father said he took photographs of the injuries to document them “so he wouldn’t get blamed,” Landry wrote. When he asked Jessica Williams about the injuries, she told him that her 4-year-old son had thrown a toy at his little brother, causing the cut.
When police spoke with Johnson, they found that her story had changed over the course of a couple of days. Initially, she told them that after Maddox was declared dead at the hospital, Jessica Williams wanted to leave the hospital and then wanted to be alone. Johnson claimed she had dropped her daughter off at the pier located on Steamboat Avenue in Searsport, and then went back to Jessica Williams’ house in Stockton Springs.
“Sherry eventually admitted that she didn’t drop Jessica off at the pier and confirmed she lied to detectives the previous night,” Landry wrote.
Instead, Jessica Williams went back to Johnson’s home, and was picked up there the next day by Andrew Moulton from Swanville, who told police later that he dropped her off at an apartment.
The two had communicated via text, Landry wrote. On Sunday, Jessica Williams sent him a message saying “You awake I need ur help” and then “my son passed away.” She wrote him that the state police and DHHS were at her house.
“I’m not going to go home to deal with that on top of this,” she wrote. “Keep this between us please.”
When Moulton asked her what happened, she wrote him “idk,” an abbreviation for “I don’t know.” Then she said “No I didn’t kill my son.”
On Wednesday, police went to Johnson’s house again, and this time Jessica Williams was inside. Williams told police that her daughter told her that Maddox had been knocked down by the puppy. He came inside and told her that his “tummy hurt.” She called Johnson to come to the house and they took him to the hospital.
Jessica Williams told police that her son had fallen from the trampoline recently, Landry wrote.
“She tried to run and catch him but did not make it in time,” he wrote. “Jessica stated he landed on the grass and was not bleeding anywhere and seemed fine.”
But when detectives spoke Wednesday with Dr. Lisa Funte of the medical examiner’s office, the doctor was adamant that all the boy’s injuries could not have been caused by those incidents. He also had three partially healed abrasions on his face and forehead that were covered with temporary stick-on tattoos, deep tissue bruising in his buttocks and was missing three teeth from what appeared to be at least two different events.
“Dr. Funte stated Maddox’s injuries were too severe to be caused by kids playing, falling from a trampoline, or being knocked down by a puppy,” Landry wrote.
Jeff Toothaker of Ellsworth expects to be appointed Friday as Jessica Williams’ attorney. He met with her Thursday in a video conference from the Waldo County Jail, and said that while he hasn’t yet seen the police affidavit he believes it will be a case that hinges on medical evidence. Toothaker stressed that as a court-appointed defense lawyer, he can access all the resources he needs to provide his client with the best possible representation.
“We will be hiring several individuals who are experts in the medical field,” he said. “It’s going to be a fair fight.”