A photo of Maddox Williams is displayed on a computer screen during his mother’s trial in Waldo County Superior Court. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

It was a tragedy that brought Maddox Williams’ family together in Belfast on Tuesday, less than a week before Christmas.

But instead of gathering to celebrate the holidays, the family of the little boy’s father sat bunched together in the front row of a courtroom at the Waldo County Courthouse, passing around a box of tissues as Maddox’s mother was sentenced to 47 years in state prison for his murder.

Their next focus is on improving the state’s Office of Child and Family Services, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“I am broken,” Victoria Vose, Maddox’s paternal grandmother, told the judge before he decided on a sentence. “My family is broken.”

Jessica Trefethen, 36 of Stockton Springs, was found guilty on Oct. 18 of depraved indifference murder in the death of her 3-year-old son.

Jessica Trefethen listens as Assistant Attorney General John Risler addresses jurors in Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast on Oct. 5, 2022. Trefethen, 36 of Stockton Springs, is charged with depraved indifference murder in the 2021 death of her 3-year-old son Maddox Williams. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

She was arrested on June 23, 2021, three days after bringing a lifeless, Maddox Williams to Waldo County General Hospital, where her son was pronounced dead.


An emergency room nurse told jurors in October that hospital staff tried for an hour but could not save the toddler.

A medical examiner who investigated Maddox’s body the next day testified that Maddox had died because of severe internal injuries and that he was a victim of battered child syndrome.

Maddox Williams Photo from the #justiceformaddox GoFundMe page

Maddox’s body – pictures of which were shown to the jury several times – was covered in bruises, some of which, including a round lump on his forehead, were covered in temporary tattoos. Older injuries included missing teeth, a fractured jaw and brain injuries.

Several of Maddox’s family members on his father’s side spoke at Tuesday’s sentencing, including Vose and his aunt, asking the judge to issue a life sentence.

Vose said living without Maddox was already a life sentence for her and her son. Maddox’s aunt, Mikayla Williams, testified that she has had a hard time explaining Maddox’s death to her own young son.

“I had to convince my 4-year-old son to get different glasses than what he wanted because I couldn’t emotionally bear seeing him wearing the same glasses as his cousin,” Mikayla Williams said. “I struggled with planning my son’s fourth birthday because Maddox never made it to his.”


Trefethen declined to deliver a statement.

Trefethen faced 25 years to life in prison. Her publicly appointed attorneys asked Murray to limit her sentence to 30 years or less. Prosecutors from the attorney general’s office asked for a minimum of 50 years.

Justice Robert Murray addresses jurors at the start of the murder trial of Jessica Trefethen in Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast in October. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Maddox was one of more than two dozen children whose deaths in 2021 were flagged by the Office of Children and Family Services. State lawmakers on the Government Oversight Committee sued the Department of Health and Human Services this year to share confidential child protective case files with the group.

A judge denied lawmakers access this month, ruling that the confidential records can only be shared with the Legislature’s accountability office staff and those who provide direct child protective services.

But the agency released a memo Tuesday detailing their history of involvement with Maddox that stretched for his entire, short lifetime, starting when Maddox was just hours old. The document largely mirrors testimony and evidence from Trefethen’s trial, related to substance abuse and domestic violence in the Trefethen home, although no one from DHHS was called to testify.


Maddox was born two and a half months premature in January 2018 and was immediately hospitalized, according to the memo. DHHS notes both of his parents dealt with substance use disorder and Trefethen was using prescribed methadone throughout her pregnancy.

In March 2018, Maddox was living with Trefethen when one of his half-siblings overdosed on methadone. No one in the home sought emergency medical help for 20 minutes, the memo reported. Maddox was sent to live with his father, Andrew Williams. DHHS ordered Jessica and her boyfriend at the time, Jason Trefethen, to complete counseling and substance use treatment.

Jessica and Jason Trefethen have four children together, one of whom was born after Maddox’s death. Maddox is Jessica Trefethen’s only child with Andrew Williams. Her oldest child has a different father.

Shortly after a District Court judge agreed to give Maddox’s father custody as part of his parent’s divorce agreement, Andrew Williams was arrested and charged with burglary. Williams was caught at the scene holding Maddox, the child’s stroller full of stolen items, according to the DHHS memo.

So Maddox went back to live with his mom while Williams attended counseling and received treatment for substance use disorder.

The parents later reached a new custody agreement, but Williams would sometimes tell DHHS that Trefethen wasn’t following it. Over the next year, DHHS would respond to multiple domestic violence reports at the Trefethen home and Williams’ second arrest – this time for OUI, and again, Maddox was there.


In one case, Trefethen called 911 to report Jason Trefethen had shoved and threatened to kill her. He was later charged with domestic violence.

“The responding officer reported that the children were visibly upset, noting that the oldest child was crying and holding the younger children,” the memo stated. “The officer also reported that the home was very messy.”

Trefethen repeatedly refused to let DHHS interview her children. A case worker observed them once. It was the last time the department engaged with Maddox and he was sleeping. The caseworker made no mention of any marks or bruises, remarking Maddox seemed “comfortable.”

“Based on the information the department was able to gather, there were insufficient grounds to pursue court intervention to compel Ms. Trefethen’s engagement with the department,” the memo stated.


Vose has been an outspoken advocate for child welfare reform following Maddox’s death. She testified to state lawmakers in February that Maine’s system for protecting children failed her grandson. Now that Trefethen has been sentenced, she said Monday her next goal is improving the state’s Office of Child and Family Services, overseen by DHHS.


“There is no logical reason why Maddox was taken from me,” Vose said.

Over the course of Trefethen’s trial, witnesses testified about several forms of abuse, emotional and physical, that weren’t part of the DHHS memo.

Maddox’s oldest sister described a family trip to New Hampshire, where she saw Trefethen throw Maddox out of the bathroom. She said her mother would cover bruises and other markings on Maddox with makeup and fake tattoos.

Trefethen’s mother, Sherry Johnson, told jurors Trefethen often called Maddox names and would discipline him more severely than her other children. Johnson brought Trefethen and Maddox to the hospital the day he died, and she has since been charged with hindering apprehension and prosecution after lying to investigators about her daughter’s whereabouts during those three days in June when police were searching for her.

A spokesperson for the Maine Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday that it expects Johnson will enter a plea agreement.

In a joint statement Tuesday, DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Office of Child and Family Services Director Todd Landry said Maddox’s death was a “tragic loss.”


Jessica Trefethen looks over notes on a legal pad in Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast on Oct. 5. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“There is no higher priority for the Department of Health and Human Services than protecting Maine children from abuse and neglect,” the statement said. “We maintain our commitment to learning all we can from this death as we strive for a system that promotes safety, stability, health and happiness for all Maine children and families.”

DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell said Tuesday that the deaths in 2021 “intensified” the agency’s work at self-improvement. In October 2021, national experts completed an independent review of the agency’s involvement with the children who died that year. And lawmakers supported a measure from Gov. Janet Mills this year to strengthen the office of the Child Welfare Services Ombudsman, which is tasked with investigating complaints against child protective services.

For Andrew Williams – who was not able to leave jail for his son’s funeral, and who was asked to leave Trefethen’s trial in October in case he was called upon to testify (he never was) – advocating for change is the next step in his grief.

“They were warned,” Williams said. “They were warned this was going to happen … and they did not listen.”

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