A woman with long hair walks into a courtroom.
The murder trial of Jessica Trefethen, also known as Jessica Williams, 36, of Stockton Springs begin with opening arguments on Wednesday at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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.

A distraught Stockton Springs mother told police three days after her 3-year-old son died that she did not cause his injuries and that she had no idea what killed him.

Jessica Trefethen, 36, is on trial at the Waldo Judicial Center for the depraved indifference murder of her son Maddox Williams. Her emotional two-hour interview with Maine State Police detectives on June 23, 2021, was played for jurors Friday, the third day of her trial.

An autopsy showed that Maddox suffered a fracture in his lower spine; bruises on his arms, legs, belly and head; bleeding in his brain; a ruptured bowel; and other injuries, according to a police affidavit. The Maine medical examiner’s office determined the cause of his death on June 20, 2021, to be multiple blunt force trauma that was inflicted non-accidentally.

Credit: Courtesy of Becky Stephens via CBS 13

Trefethen denied abusing Maddox or her other children.

“I have never put my hands on my children. My kids are my world,” she told detectives.

That’s contrary to what the defendant’s mother, Sherry Johnson of Stockton Springs, said on Thursday while testifying. Johnson said she saw Trefethen backhand Maddox in the mouth on several occasions.

Trefethen told police that her children were playing outside on Father’s Day when her then-8-year-old daughter came inside to tell her that their puppy had knocked Maddox down and dragged him. She later said the girl had kicked Maddox in the stomach.

Maddox went into the house, complaining his stomach hurt, Trefethen said in the interview. She gave him some cereal and something to drink, then sent him back outside.

“A few minutes later, he came back inside and snuggled with me on the couch,” she told detectives. “He said, ‘My tummy hurts. My tummy hurts so much.’ So I called my mom and asked her to come down so we could take him to the hospital.”

The boy was conscious until they got to Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, she said. Hospital staff spent an hour trying to revive the boy before pronouncing him dead. A nurse testified earlier this week that Maddox appeared malnourished when he was brought in.

From left: The murder trial of Jessica Trefethen, also known as Jessica Williams, 36, of Stockton Springs began with opening arguments on Wednesday at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast; Defense attorney Caitlyn Smith addresses the jury during opening arguments in the murder trial of Jessica Trefethen; Superior Court Justice Robert Murray addresses the jury before opening arguments in the murder trial of Jessica Trefethen. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Trefethen admitted to police that she avoided talking with them for three days after Maddox died.

“I was grieving,” she said. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone.”

However, social media messages between Trefethen and friends showed that she was concerned that the police wanted to arrest her. Those messages were shown to the jury Thursday.

The three children Trefethen shares with ex-husband Jason Trefethen were in foster care in 2020 while Maddox was living with his father, Andrew Williams, Jessica Trefethen said. The Trefethen children were returned to her home just after Christmas that year, she said.

It’s not clear why the Maine Department of Human Services got involved with the family that year.

There’s now a fourth Trefethen child. Jessica Trefethen was seven months pregnant when she was arrested. She later gave birth to a boy.

Those children are in the custody of the DHHS, according to the defense team. Jessica Trefethen also has a 14-year-old daughter who lives with her father.

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. 

The killing of Maddox Williams happened in the same town where 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy was beaten to death in 2018 by her stepfather and mother, who also was pregnant at the time of her arrest. That case also sparked intensive scrutiny of Maine’s child welfare system, which received 25 reports concerning Marissa and her family in the 16 months leading up to her death, but didn’t confirm her stepfather and mother were abusing her until she was dead.

Sharon Kennedy was convicted by a jury of murder and sentenced to 48 years in prison. Trefethen could face a similar sentence if convicted. Julio Carrillo pleaded guilty to a murder charge and was sentenced to 55 years in prison. 

Jessica Trefethen’s trial is expected to go to the jury on Oct. 14 after testimony resumes following the Monday holiday. Jason Trefethen is expected to take the stand Tuesday. 

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.