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 https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cw/reporting_abuse.shtml.
After 3½-year-old Maddox Williams was declared dead in the emergency room of a Belfast hospital last year, his maternal grandmother removed the sheet covering his body to say goodbye to him.
“He was covered in bruises from head to toe,” Sherry Johnson of Stockton Springs testified Thursday at the murder trial of her daughter.
Jessica Trefethen, 36, of Stockton Springs was charged in June 2021 with the depraved indifference murder of Maddox. She has pleaded not guilty.
Johnson testified that in the weeks leading up to Maddox’s death on Father’s Day 2021, she noticed that he had lost two of his baby teeth and often had bruises on his forehead, arms and legs. She also told jurors that she had seen her daughter backhand the boy in the mouth but did not see her slap her other children the same way.
The Maine medical examiner’s office determined the cause of death to be multiple blunt force trauma that was inflicted non-accidentally, also known as battered child syndrome.
Trefethen also would punish the boy by making him lay on the couch with his face toward the wall, she said.
“She told him that she didn’t want to look at his ugly face and that he was exactly like his father,” Johnson told jurors.
Maddox’s father Andrew Williams and Trefethen were married for a short time and had a stormy relationship, Johnson testified. Williams and Trefethen shared custody of the boy until March 2021 when Williams was arrested. He was in Knox County Jail when the boy died.
Trefethen called Johnson on the morning the boy died and asked her to come to her house to see if she thought Maddox needed to go to the emergency room, the maternal grandmother said.
When Johnson arrived at her daughter’s home, Maddox was on the couch covered with a blanket with his mother.
“He was pale, grayish looking,” he said. “I talked with him and his mother talked with him.”
The women decided the boy should go to the hospital. Trefethen got in the backseat of her car with Maddox and Johnson drove to the Waldo County General Hospital.
“He was laying head toward Jessica,” said Johnson. She was leaning in and he was talking. She said, ‘I love you,’ and he said, ‘I love you,’ back. He drank some Gatorade.”
As Johnson pulled into the hospital parking lot, Maddox passed out, the grandmother testified. Trefethen rushed into the emergency room carrying the boy and Johnson parked the car. When she got to the treatment room, the hospital personnel were working on the boy.
Johnson said they stayed with the boy between 15 or 20 minutes, although a nurse testified Wednesday the women left after spending only 10 minutes with Maddox. Trefethen told her mother that she was not ready to talk with the police and instructed Johnson to lie and tell them she’d dropped her daughter off at the Searsport pier.
Johnson has been charged with hindering apprehension, a Class B crime for doing so because Trefethen was indicted for murder. Johnson has pleaded not guilty and the case is pending.
The day after Maddox died, Johnson was babysitting the three children her daughter has with Jason Trefethen, when she received a call from a caseworker at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Johnson said she was told to bring the children to the Belfast hospital where the department took custody of them. Exactly when the agency’s child protective unit became involved with the family has not been made public.
Other witnesses Wednesday were members of the Evidence Response team for the Maine State Police. Photos taken June 21, 2021, show a home in disarray with toys and clutter throughout the house and boxes of junk food stacked up in the kitchen. Detectives testified that they found Maddox’s blood on washcloths, towels and living room chairs. They also took his clothes from the hospital because they were bloodstained.
The yard outside the mobile home was littered with toys. There also was a trampoline, four-wheeler and a tire swing hanging from a tree in the yard. Trefethen told police that Maddox had recently fallen off the trampoline.
Maddox was one of four children allegedly killed by a parent last year, prompting a fresh round of scrutiny for the state’s child welfare system and an outside investigation into the deaths. Trefethen is the first of those parents to go on trial.
Testimony in Trefethen’s jury trial began Wednesday before Superior Court Justice Robert Murray at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast. The trial is expected to go to the jury on Oct. 14. Testimony will resume Friday morning with the cross examination of Johnson. Jason Trefethen also is scheduled to take the stand.
If convicted of murder, Trefethen faces 25 years to life in prison. She also could be ordered to pay restitution for her son’s funeral expenses.