The murder trial of Jessica Trefethen, also known as Jessica Williams, 36, of Stockton Springs, began Oct. 5 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 maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/provider-resources/reporting-suspected-child-abuse-and-neglect.

The state’s deputy chief medical examiner testified Monday that the fatal injuries 3½-year-old Maddox Williams endured only could have been inflicted in a tremendous car crash, a fall from great height or if an adult had stomped on his abdomen.

Maddox Williams

Jessica Trefethen, 36, is on trial at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast for the depraved indifference murder of her son Maddox Williams on Father’s Day 2021. She has pleaded not guilty and has claimed she did not abuse her children.

Trefethen’s jury trial resumed Monday after taking last week off because the lead prosecutor tested positive for the coronavirus. Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea took Monday off but is expected to return later this week. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese filled in for her.

Dr. Liam Funte told jurors that Maddox died of battered child syndrome. The medical examiner meticulously pointed out to jurors in autopsy photos every bruise and contusion on the boy’s body, supporting the testimony of Maddox’s maternal grandmother, Sherry Johnson of Stockton Springs, who told jurors on the second day of her daughter’s murder trial, Oct. 6, that the boy’s body “was covered in bruises from head to toe.” 

The 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; a split pancreas 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.

Funte testified Monday that the fatal injuries were the damage to the pancreas and ruptured bowel. Those injuries were inflicted a few hours before he died.

“Those injuries are very painful,” he said. “They are not consistent with running around and playing.”

Jurors quietly and stoically viewed the photos without reacting while in the courtroom.

In an interview with police recorded on June 23, 2021, and played in court on Oct. 7, Trefethen said that Maddox fell playing in the yard at her Stockton Springs home, was dragged by a puppy and hit his head on a rock. She also told investigators that Maddox’s then-8-year-old sister had kicked him in the stomach that day.

Trefethen told police that she and her mother took him to the hospital after he complained that his stomach hurt.

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 in the trial’s first week that Maddox appeared malnourished when he was brought in.

The deputy medical examiner testified Monday that Maddox’s sister would not have been strong enough to inflict the fatal injuries.

Funte, who will be back on the stand Tuesday, also testified that Maddox weighed 27 pounds and was 35 inches tall. Witnesses who knew the boy described him as small for his age and skinny. The average 3 ½-year-old boy weighs 33 pounds and 12 ounces and is 39 inches tall, according to babycenter.com, a support website for parents of young children.

Also on Monday a second interview of Trefethen on June 23, 2021, recorded shortly before she was arrested for murder, was played for the jury.

Trefethen again denied that she abused Maddox or her other children.

At one point, a detective asked her what happened to Maddox.

“I have not a clue,” she said.

“Are you the monster who abuses their kids everyday or are you the person who made a mistake here?” Maine State Police Detective Hugh Landry asked. “Because based on the evidence, that’s what we’re left with.”

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.

So far, no one from the Department of Health and Human Services has testified about its involvement with the family at Trefethen’s trial.

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.