The maternal grandmother of a murdered toddler pleaded guilty Monday to helping her daughter evade police.
Sherry Johnson, 59, pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension or prosecution on Monday in Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast in a plea deal that will allow her to avoid jail time.
Johnson was charged in June 2021 for intentionally misinforming Maine State Police about her daughter Jessica Trefethen’s whereabouts in June 2021, following three-year-old Maddox Williams’ death. Trefethen was sentenced to 47 years in prison after a jury found her guilty of depraved indifference murder.
Johnson accepted a deal with the court that Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea described as “light,” but deserved. Johnson received a suspended sentence of three and a half years, two years of probation and special conditions barring her from contacting Trefethen and Williams’ paternal family, as part of the plea. Johnson will have a felony conviction on her record, but won’t spend any time in jail unless she violates the conditions of her probation.
During Trefethen’s October trial, Johnson testified her daughter had asked her to lie to police because she was not ready to speak with them. Johnson initially told police that she had dropped Trefethen off at the Searsport public landing. She later admitted that they had driven together to Bucksport and then back to Johnson’s residence. Trefethen then disappeared.
At Monday’s hearing, Zainea said that while Johnson initially lied and withheld information, her later cooperation and testimony as a witness during the October trial was integral to Trefethen’s conviction.
“She was able to provide critical information about the relationship that Jessica Trefethen had with Maddox, about what took place thereafter and what her daughter did,” Zainea said.
Zainea said that during the trial, prosecutors also learned that Johnson was afraid of Trefethen.
“She did express fear of her daughter and that may have been the motivating factor of why she did not tell law enforcement where she was, why she was not honest with them,” Zainea said.