BELFAST —A 35-year-old Stockton Springs woman charged with murder in the June 20 death of her 3-year-old son was given custody of the boy earlier this year after his biological father was arrested several times.

Jessica Trefethen, who also goes by the names Jessica Williams and Jessica Johnson, made her initial court appearance on the charge of depraved indifference murder June 25 at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast. Superior Court Justice Robert Murray set bail at $150,000 cash with conditions she avoid contact with children under age 14 as well as more than a half-dozen people who were named.

Jessica Williams Source: Waldo County Jail

According to court documents, Maine Department of Health and Human Services became involved with Maddox Williams’ parents at least twice during his short life. While the extent of that involvement remains unclear — the state is unable to comment on active criminal cases — the details are likely to become a focal point of both the police investigation into the injuries Maddox suffered before his death and an internal DHHS review sparked by another string of child deaths.

“Due to state and federal statutory prohibitions, and to avoid compromising active law enforcement investigations, the department is currently unable to provide further comment on this death,” spokeswoman Jackie Farwell wrote in response to questions about whether DHHS caseworkers had been assigned to Maddox.

In a June 24 press release, DHHS announced a collaboration with Casey Family Programs to assist in investigating the recent spike in child deaths in the state. Maddox Williams was the fourth Maine child to die in less than a month because of suspected abuse or by accident.

Three of those deaths have led to murder and/or manslaughter charges, including Wednesday’s arrest of Trefethen.

Police were investigating a fifth death Friday, of a 4-year-old boy in Windham, but have yet to release a cause of death. Maddox’s death in Stockton Springs comes less than 3½ years after 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy died of abuse in the small town in Waldo County.

In an interview with State Police, Maddox’s father, Andrew Williams, who is currently incarcerated at Knox County Jail, said Trefethen had been Maddox’s primary caregiver since he was jailed.

The last time he saw his son was April 10. At that time he noticed multiple bruises on Maddox’s face and a cut over one of his eyes.

On Friday, June 25, Judge Geoffrey Rushlau refused to allow the 30-year-old Williams to be released on bail to handle funeral arrangements and attend services for his son.

Williams made headlines when he was arrested Jan. 28, 2020, on charges that he broke into a Rockland home and began stealing items while carrying his son, then 2 years old, under his arm. Williams was charged with burglary, felony theft, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of unlawful possession of drugs.

The Bangor Daily News reported June 25 that a DHHS caseworker was called in to care for Maddox during the burglary investigation.

Williams was later released on bail after the burglary charges, but was arrested again roughly 14 months later and charged with operating under the influence and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. Deputy District Attorney Christopher Fernald said Williams had children in the car with him at the time of his OUI arrest, but it was unclear whether Maddox was among them.

A grand jury will hear the evidence against Trefethen at a later date.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up by Maddox’s family to help with expenses. To donate, visit gofundme.com/f/6b8f58-justiceformaddox.

Portland Press Herald staff writer Kevin Miller and Courier Gazette staff writer Steve Betts contributed to this story.