In this June 2021 file photo, Jessica Trefethen, 35, enters a courtroom where she made her first appearance before a judge at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast. Trefethen, who has also been known by the last names Williams and Johnson, has been charged with the murder of her 3-year-old son, Maddox Williams. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.

Maine recorded four fewer homicides in 2021 than it did in 2020, but more than a quarter of the victims were children under the age of four.

The state recorded 18 homicides this year, the same number recorded in 2016, according to statistics kept by the Maine Department of Public Safety. The state recorded 22 in 2020.

The number of homicides in 2021 was slightly below Maine’s 10-year average, but the year stood out for the number of young victims. The high-profile deaths of four Maine children, allegedly at the hands of parents, in 2021 led to increased scrutiny of the state’s embattled child welfare system. Three reports on the state of the system are due next year, and lawmakers have proposed a range of reforms.

Also included in this year’s numbers is the death of a child in 2020 who was not included in that year’s data because no one had been charged in her case.

Nine of the homicides in 2021 were classified as domestic violence homicides, including the deaths of the five young children. No children were listed in last year’s homicide statistics.

The state characterizes a case as a domestic violence homicide when a family member kills another family member or intimate partner. Historically, about half the slayings each year are classified as domestic violence homicides.

While the number of children who were victims of homicide in 2021 was high, it did not set a record. In 2014, eight children were slain — three in one family who were killed by their father, who then took his own life, and two in another, when their mother’s boyfriend killed them after slaying their mother.

The 10-year average for homicides remained at 22 in 2021.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who heads the criminal division which prosecutes all homicide cases in Maine, said that Maine typically sees between 20 and 25 homicide deaths per year. The number of children who were killed in 2021 is unusual, she said.

Because of the slowdown in court proceedings due to the coronavirus pandemic, just one case has been set for trial in 2022 as of Dec. 30.

Following is a list of the 2021 homicide victims:

Jessica Dapolito, 42, was fatally shot and by her longtime domestic partner Robert Dapolito, 55, at their home in New Sharon on Jan. 25. He then took his own life.

Troy Varney, 52, and Dulsie Varney, 48, were found injured at a residence on Knight Farm Road in Turner on Feb 12. They later died of stab wounds. Their former tenant, Patrick Maher, 25, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder.

Rhonda Pattelena, 35, of Bedford, Massachusetts, died of blunt force trauma to the head on March 26 on Short Sands Beach in York. Her domestic partner, Jeffrey Buchannan, 34, has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Jaden Harding, 6 weeks old, of Brewer was unresponsive and not breathing when he was taken to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center on May 31. He was pronounced dead the next day. His father, Ronald Harding, 37, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in his death.

Hailey Goding, 3, of Old Town died June 6 at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center after being rushed to the hospital two days earlier. The girl allegedly was exposed to fentanyl and died from a brain injury consistent with an opioid overdose. Her mother, Hillary Goding, 29, has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter in her death.

Amanda Brown, 29, was shot at her home in Standish on June 16. Her boyfriend Brandon Libby, 34, of Standish has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Cheryl Cote, 47, and Daniel Perkins, 45, were fatally shot in their Limington home on June 17. The home was then set ablaze. Cote’s son Matthew Cote, 22, has pleaded not guilty to murder and arson. 

Maddox Williams, 3, of Stockton Springs died June 20 at Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast. His mother, Jessica Trefethen, 35, has pleaded not guilty in his death, allegedly caused by repeated abuse. Trefethen’s trial has been set for October at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast.

Joel Williams, 48, of Somerville was shot during an altercation at a Somerville home on June 30. A Lincoln County grand jury declined to indict a Jefferson man in connection with Williams’ death.

Sylus Melvin, 6 months old, of Milo died at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center on Aug. 29. His father Reginald Melvin, 28, of Milo has pleaded not guilty to murder in the boy’s death.

Douglas Michaud, 31, was fatally shot on Sept. 14 on his front porch in Biddeford by a tenant he was trying to evict, according to police. Randal J. Hennessey, 31, of Biddeford has pleaded not guilty to murder in the case.

Anderson Gomes, 28, of Waterbury, Connecticut, was stabbed at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds on Oct. 13. Carlos A. Negron, 46, of Connecticut has pleaded not guilty to slaying his fellow carnival worker. 

Brandin Guerrero, 17, of Massapequa, New York, was shot outside a home on High Street in Machias on Nov. 4. Four men have been arrested and charged in connection with his death — Jorge Pagan-Sanchez, 41, of Taunton, Massachusetts; Nathanael Genao, 23, of New Bedford, Massachusetts; Juan Ortiz, 27, of Concord, New Hampshire; and Emanuel Ramos, 30, of Roxbury, Massachusetts. Ortiz, Ramos and Genao have been returned to Maine and are being held at the Washington County Jail. Pagan-Sanchez is expected to be brought to Maine next week.

Ian Morris, 18, of Portland was fatally shot outside a Hiram home on Nov. 20. The case is under investigation.

Jason “Cowboy” Aubuchon, 50, of Eastport, was killed at a home in Perry on Dec. 26. His ex-girlfriend, Danielle Wheeler, 40, of Perry has been charged with murder and is being held at the Washington County Jail. Her first appearance had not been set as of Dec. 31.

The homicide of Harper Averill, 2 months old, of Turner on July 22, 2020, was not on that year’s homicide list because no one had been charged in connection with her death. Her father, Trevor Averill, 27, of Buckfield was indicted on Sept. 9, 2021, by an Androscoggin County grand jury on one count each of murder and manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.