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.
Police notified the Maine Department of Health and Human Services at least twice of potential instances in which 3-year-old Maddox Williams’ father was neglecting him and committing crimes with the child present before he was killed this week, court records show.
The Stockton Springs boy died Sunday from blunt force trauma and his mother, Jessica Trefethen, 35, has been charged with his murder. He appeared to have only been in his mother’s custody since early March after his father, Andrew Williams, was arrested. Williams is currently incarcerated at the Knox County Jail on charges unrelated to the child’s death.
Court records from different criminal cases paint a disturbing picture of the boy’s unstable life up until March, the last time on record that protective workers dealt with Maddox while he was alive. His repeated contact with the state echoed two high-profile child deaths in 2017 and 2018 — one of them in the same town — that focused public attention on the child welfare system and led to legislative reforms.
While Maddox was in his mother’s custody at the time of his death, his father raised him for the first two years of his life, Williams’ attorney Steven Peterson said in a Wednesday court filing that Trefethen and Williams had recently been working to resolve parental rights.
Maddox’s time with his father was punctuated by brushes with police. Around 8:30 a.m. on March 7, police were called after a clerk at a Warren convenience store noticed a man who appeared to be intoxicated driving a four-door Cadillac with children in the car who did not appear to be secured in car seats.
When a Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputy arrived, he found the vehicle at a nearby home. Williams was playing with Maddox in the front yard. But when the deputy approached and began to talk to Williams, he noted that he was slurring his speech and standing off-balance to the point where the deputy thought he would fall with his son. Both Maddox and his 10-year-old half sister were present while Williams was being questioned.
“It should be noted that while I was questioning Andrew, he was attempting to watch his toddler son,” Deputy Brandon Sterling wrote. “I also noticed his son only had one shoe on and it was the wrong foot.”
Williams told the deputy that he hadn’t consumed any alcohol that day. That was true, according to a toxicology screening conducted after Williams’ arrest, but Williams was otherwise impaired, under the influence of benzodiazepines, Xanax and suboxone. Williams said he was on medication for depression and anxiety, court documents show. He told police that he had a prescription for suboxone.
After arresting Williams, Palmer notified DHHS “about the interaction with Williams and the children’s involvement,” according to his report. That was at least the second time that Maddox had been present while his father had interactions with police.
In January 2020, Williams allegedly burglarized a home in Rockland while carrying Maddox. DHHS responded to that incident and worked with Rockland police to help locate a guardian for Maddox after Williams was arrested, according to court documents.
It is not clear what Maddox’s custody arrangement was immediately afterward. Several extended family members declined comment Friday on the boy’s life. A DHHS spokesperson declined to say whether or not the agency had involvement in Maddox’s life. It is unclear exactly how involved child protective workers were.
In the case of Marissa Kennedy, a 10-year-old also from Stockton Springs killed by her mother and stepfather in February 2018, the state fielded 25 reports of abuse or neglect but only confirmed abuse after she died. Four-year-old Kendall Chick of Wiscasset, who died at the hands of her grandfather’s fiancee in December 2017, was the subject of several similar reports, but the state closed out her child welfare case 10 months before her death.
Following his March arrest, Williams wrote a letter to the court asking for a bail hearing. He said he could not afford the $5,000 cash bail initially set for him. Williams said he has been working with DHHS, though does not specify in what capacity. Williams did not mention Maddox specifically in the letter.
“While sitting in jail, I am losing my apartment and not able to support my family, continue therapy and treatment,” Andrew Williams wrote in a letter to the court on Feb. 11, 2020. “I have an open case with DHHS that can not also be handled while [incarcerated].”
This week, Williams asked to be released from jail for 30 days to handle Maddox’s funeral arrangements and grieve with his family for the loss of his son. But a judge denied the request on Friday. Williams may be able to attend his son’s funeral, though, since Maine law allows for an incarcerated individual to request to attend a funeral under some circumstances ― including the death of a child ― under the supervision of a corrections officer.
In court Friday, Peterson said there was a dispute between the families of Williams and Trefethen as to who was going to take custody of Maddox’s body for funeral arrangements. He said the dispute was resolved Thursday. Williams’ mother is handling the funeral arrangements.
Peterson said he expects Maddox’s funeral to take place in Rockland next week.