Jessica Trefethen listens as the jury announces they found her guilty of depraved indifference murder in the 2021 death of her 3-year-old son Maddox Williams. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

BELFAST — A jury found a Stockton Springs mother guilty of depraved indifference murder for the death of her 3-year-old son in 2021.

Jessica Trefethen, 36, was quiet when she heard the verdict in Waldo County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon. Trefethen had her back turned to the room, standing between her two state-appointed defense attorneys. Most of the audience was silent, except for a sharp sigh. After the verdict was read, Trefethen was quickly ushered out of the courtroom.

Trefethen was arrested June 23, 2021, three days after she brought her son Maddox Williams to Waldo County General Hospital unconscious and without a pulse. Trefethen told hospital staff that Maddox had been knocked over by a dog and kicked by one of his sisters, a narrative her defense attorneys repeated several times during the trial.

Maddox Williams Photo from the #justiceformaddox GoFundMe page

Nurses tried for an hour but could not save Maddox. The following day, a medical examiner determined Maddox had died because of severe internal injuries to his abdomen and fractured vertebrae. Based on several older injuries, including missing teeth, a fractured jaw, two brain injuries and dozens of bruises on his body, the examiner also found Maddox was a victim of battered child syndrome.

Maddox mattered. Every child matters,” said Maddox’s paternal grandmother, Victoria Vose, reading a written statement to reporters outside the courthouse after hearing the verdict.

Maddox was one of more than two dozen children whose deaths in 2021 were flagged by the Office of Children and Family Services. The agency recently turned over its case files for Maddox and three other children to the Office for Program Evaluation and Government Accountability at the request of lawmakers investigating the deaths.



Vose said she was pleased with the verdict Tuesday, but that courts across Maine will continue to place children in unsafe homes unless the state improves its system for child protection and welfare.

“This is the case with Maddox and the other children,” she said. “Justice for my grandson Maddox, Marissa Kennedy, Kendall Chick and all the other children wronged by the department (of Health and Human Services) will not begin until OCFS is held accountable.”

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea told jurors Tuesday that the state believes Trefethen stomped on Maddox, or harmed him in some other way using significant force. She asked the jury to consider testimony from family members that Trefethen treated Maddox worse than her other children out of spite for Maddox’s father, and that Trefethen spent three days hiding from police after Maddox’s death.

Jeffrey Toothaker, one of two state-appointed attorneys defending Trefethen, argued prosecutors could only guess that Trefethen stomped Maddox. Toothaker said they hadn’t successfully disproven Trefethen’s statements to police after Maddox died – that he had been pulled down by the family’s new dog and hit a rock before his 8-year-old sister kicked him – or other statements she made later that Maddox had fallen off a trampoline outside the family’s trailer home in Stockton Springs.

In order to find Trefethen guilty of the depraved indifference charge, jurors had to agree Trefethen caused Maddox’s death and that he would not have died if it wasn’t for her treatment of him. They also had to agree that she acted in a way that demonstrates a “depraved indifference” to human life.



Jurors deliberated for about an hour Tuesday afternoon. Trefethen will be sentenced in December. She faces 25 years to life in state prison. The attorney general’s office will submit a recommendation to the court.

Assistant Attorney General John Risler, who prosecuted the case with Zainea, said after the verdict that he believed the state’s most effective evidence was the autopsy report written by Deputy Medical Examiner Liam Funte.

As Toothaker cross-examined Funte Tuesday morning – asking him about the non-fatal injuries Maddox had sustained, and whether Funte believed it was possible that Maddox could’ve been hurt falling off the trampoline or being kicked by his older sister – a picture of Maddox’s body was displayed on several digital screens in the courtroom.


Maddox was small, pale and covered in bruises, his mouth and the white sheet under his face stained blue from Gatorade he had earlier that day. Prosecutors pointed out that by the time the photograph was taken, Funte had wiped off a bright orange tiger tattoo on Maddox’s forehead that had been covering a “goose egg” bruise.


Trefethen spent most of Funte’s testimony looking away from the picture. When she did look up, it was only briefly, shaking her head and sniffling. At one point, defense attorney Caitlyn Smith placed a hand on Trefethen’s back.

Trefethen did not testify in her trial and her attorneys called no witnesses. Instead, they pointed to a recording of her interview with police the day she was arrested, which prosecutors played for the jury during the first week of the trial.

Police, Toothaker said, failed to fully investigate other scenarios.

“Too many questions,” Toothaker said. “Too many unanswered questions by the state.”

But police didn’t know to investigate a possible trampoline accident until the meeting with Trefethen three days after Maddox died, Zainea said. Shortly after Maddox was pronounced dead at the hospital, Trefethen and her mother, Sherry Johnson, left before police could arrive to question them. Zainea said Trefethen spent the next three days hiding. She withdrew all the money from her bank account and texted friends from a messaging app under a different name to avoid being tracked.


While Maine State Police troopers were looking for Trefethen at the Searsport Public Pier, where Johnson falsely told officers her daughter was spending time by herself, Trefethen was texting friends, asking for a place to “hide out,” suggesting that she already feared police were going to arrest her.

“For a mere 10 minutes, the defendant stayed with her son before she fled the emergency room with her mother, and Maddox was left behind,” Zainea said.  

During the first week of the trial, the court considered several text conversations Trefethen had with friends about Maddox, including those in the months before he died when she described his injuries and her efforts to hide them from the boy’s father.  


Trefethen’s oldest daughter testified that her mother would hide Maddox’s bruises with makeup and temporary tattoos. Johnson said that her daughter often told Maddox that he was “ugly” and that he reminded her too much of his father, Trefethen’s ex-husband, Andrew Williams.  

“Maddox was a constant reminder of a man she hated,” Zainea said. “He wasn’t a Trefethen, like her and the others.”  


Her defense team focused on Maddox’s relationship with Trefethen’s other children and Jason Trefethen, who lived in a camper on her property and is the father of four of her children.

Toothaker asked jurors to consider the possibility Jason Trefethen was responsible for Maddox’s injuries or death. Or who’s to say her other children didn’t hurt Maddox and cause the fatal injuries, he said.

Maddox’s father, Andrew Williams, was not at the courthouse for Trefethen’s trial. Before it began, Williams was asked to leave in case Trefethen’s defense attorneys called him as a witness. Vose, Andrew Williams’ mother, was the state’s first witness and a constant presence in the courtroom afterward.

Vose has spoken in front of state lawmakers as they consider legislation to improve the Office of Children and Family Services, which had intervened in Maddox’s case before his death, moving him in and out of his mother’s custody.

The Government Oversight Committee voted to subpoena records for Maddox and the three other children, but has not yet been allowed to see them. The committee is scheduled to discuss the subpoena at its meeting Wednesday.

Vose said she helped care for Maddox from 2019 to early 2020 after child protective workers took Maddox from Jessica Trefethen’s home following the overdose of one of her other children.

Vose also would see Maddox when Andrew Williams had an every-other-week arrangement with Trefethen, from October 2020 to December 2020. Williams temporarily lost custody of Maddox twice when he was arrested for an attempted robbery in early 2020 and an OUI the following year. Maddox was present both times, Trefethen’s attorneys told the court.

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