The murder trial of Jessica Trefethen, also known as Jessica Williams,36, of Stockton Springs begins with opening arguments on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast. Credit: Gregory Rec / Portland Press Herald

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.

On Tuesday, prosecutors at Belfast’s Waldo Judicial Center will ask for a 55-year sentence for a Stockton Springs mother convicted of beating her 3½-year-old son to death. The defense will recommend a sentence of 35 years.

Jessica Trefethen, 36, was found guilty by a jury in October of depraved indifference murder in the death of Maddox Williams, who died on June 20, 2021, at Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast.

The mother of six faces between 25 years and life in prison but based on similar cases,   a sentence of between 45 and 55 years is likely , which could be a de facto life sentence given her age.

Trefethen took Maddox to the emergency room after he complained of stomach pain, according to testimony. He lost consciousness in the hospital parking lot and never regained it despite efforts by the emergency room staff to revive him.

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. Maddox also was missing three front teeth.

Maine Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Liam Funte testified that Maddo x died of battered child syndrome . The fatal injuries — damage to the pancreas and the boy’s ruptured bowel — were inflicted a few hours before he died, he said.

Trefethen denied abusing her children in interviews with police that were played at her trial.

The jury rejected the defense’s assertion that the boy’s injuries could have been inflicted from a fall off a trampoline that was in the yard.

Sentences imposed in other cases involving murdered children offer some insight into what sentence Trefethen might receive.

Superior Court Justice Robert Murray, who presided at Trefethen’s trial, sentenced another Stockton Springs mother, Sharon Kennedy, to 48 years in prison for beating to death her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Kennedy, on Feb. 25, 2018. The prosecution recommended a life sentence while the defense urged the judge to impose a 25-year sentence.

Sharon Kennedy’s ex-husband Julio Carrillo, 56, of Stockton Springs was sentenced to 55 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder for his role in his step-daughter’s murder. Prosecutors sought a life sentence while the defense argued for a sentence of 35 to 40 years.

In a separate case, Superior Court Justice William Stokes sentenced Shawna Gatto, 48, of Wiscassett to 50 years in prison for the murder of 4-year-old Kendall Chick. The girl died on Dec. 8, 2017, of injuries similar to the ones inflicted on Maddox, including a traumatic injury to her abdomen. The prosecution recommended a sentence of 65 years while the defense argued for a 30-year-sentence.

Trefethen’s attorney, Jeffrey Toothaker, said Friday that he recommended a sentence of 35 years, in part, because the Attorney General’s office offered to recommend a sentence of 40 years if she had pleaded guilty to murder instead of going to trial.

While Maine law allows judges to send murderers to prison for life, those sentences can only be imposed in certain circumstances, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has ruled. Those include premeditation; murder accompanied by torture, sexual abuse or other extreme cruelty; murder committed in a penal institution by an inmate; multiple victims; murder of a hostage; a previous murder conviction; or the murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer.

When deciding on a sentence, judges are required to balance aggravating factors that could lengthen a sentence against mitigating factors that could shorten it.

An aggravating factor could be a defendant’s criminal history, lack of remorse, a refusal to take responsibility for the crime or the way the crime was committed.

Mitigating factors include the lack of a criminal history, a criminal’s expression of sincere remorse, a willingness to take responsibility by pleading guilty, a criminal assisting police in charging possible co-defendants, support from the criminal’s family members, the likelihood of rehabilitation and the defendant’s age.