BELFAST — On the first day of the trial for her brother’s murder, a teenage girl shyly remembered when her mother, during a family vacation in New Hampshire more than two years ago, threw him out of a hotel bathroom.

The two-year-old landed face-down on the hard floor with a “cry-laugh,” the girl recalled, “like the kind of cry that turns into a laugh.”

The story is the first glimpse jurors had of 36-year-old Jessica Trefethen’s relationship with her three-year-old son, Maddox Williams, before his death last summer. Trefethen is charged with “depraved indifference murder” in Maddox’s death.

Trefethen, who also goes by Jessica Williams and Jessica Johnson, is a Stockton Springs resident and mother to six children (including Maddox). She gave birth just after Maddox’s death.

Williams brought a lifeless Maddox to Waldo General Hospital on June 20, 2021, telling hospital staff that he had been knocked over by a dog and kicked by one of his sisters — a story her defense attorneys repeated during their opening statements Tuesday.

“We do not disagree that what you will all hear, and the pictures you will see over the next couple of weeks, are difficult,” said one of Trefethen’s defense attorneys, Caitlin Smith. “But I can tell you that there is nobody in this courtroom who will have a greater difficulty hearing and seeing what is said over the next few days than Jessica.”

It took police three days to find Trefethen after hospital staff told her Maddox was dead and she left the hospital.

While Trefethen was avoiding police, a medical examiner was conducting an autopsy that revealed Maddox’s injuries — extensive bruising, internal bleeding, missing teeth and a broken spine — were more indicative of “inflicted injuries,” said Assistant Attorney General John Risler. Prosecutors will eventually call on that examiner to testify.

“The injuries were not consistent with being dragged by a dog,” Risler said. “The injuries were not consistent with being kicked by an older sibling.”

Trefethen stayed at a friend’s home and then her mother’s house. She stopped using her credit cards and her cell phone, Risler said, so she couldn’t be tracked.

“Jessica was a grieving mother who chose to be alone, rather than be peppered with questions from various agencies,” said Smith, who told jurors police had a “red dot” on her forehead from day one, investigating no other suspects and failing to fully consider her account of Maddox’s last day.

Although the hospital notified law enforcement about Maddox’s death, Maine State Police Trooper Luke Martin testified that Trefethen’s ex-husband Jason had called police earlier that day to report Trefethen had abused Maddox and was taking him to the hospital.

Jason Trefethen was living in a camper next door to Jessica’s mobile home at the time. He is the father of four of her children.

Risler said police found traces of Maddox’s blood in Trefethen’s home in Stockton Springs — on washcloths in the living room, the back of a recliner, the seat of a chair, and on two damp towels in front of the washing machine.

Prosecution calls first six witnesses

Risler and Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, who is also prosecuting Trefethen’s case, called six witnesses Wednesday, including Trefethen’s oldest daughter, family on Maddox’s father’s side, Maine State troopers and an emergency room nurse who tried to save Maddox’s life.

In their questioning, prosecutors hinted that Maddox was treated differently from Trefethen’s other children.

Zainea asked Trefethen’s daughter if she noticed her mother treated Maddox differently. She would use makeup and fake tattoos to cover bruises on Maddox’s face, the girl said, but not for the other children. She would call him names. Sometimes, she would slap him across the mouth.

“Did you ever see your mom give kisses to Maddox?” Zainea asked.

“Maybe once or twice that I saw,” the girl said.

Christine Beguin-Fernald, an emergency room nurse at Waldo General Hospital, was one of the employees who spent an hour trying to resuscitate Maddox the day he was brought in — while some nurses worked on chest compressions, she was helping inject epinephrine to restart his heart.

Zainea showed Beguin-Fernald two photographs of Maddox — pale, thin, his stomach “tight and distended,” covered in finger-print shaped bruises. A large, bright orange temporary tattoo of a cartoon tiger popped against Maddox’s white forehead.

“Does that reflect the injuries you observed?” Zainea asked Beguin-Fernald.

“Yes ma’am,” she said, choking back tears.

Beguin-Fernald said Trefethen did not cry when hospital staff told her Maddox was dead.

But some records indicate Trefethen did react — a doctor’s note mentioned she was “was distraught, as expected,” especially when hospital staff told Trefethen that they ceased resuscitation efforts.

It was Father’s Day. His dad, Andrew Williams, was being held at the Knox County Jail and was unable to be there for his son’s last hours.

Williams was also kept out of the courtroom Wednesday for the first day of his son’s murder trial.

Before the jury entered the room, Zainea found him sitting in the front bench with his family and told him that because the defense indicated they might call him as a witness, he would have to step out.

Williams hadn’t been served a subpoena and at first objected to being forced out of the courtroom.

“Jeff, are you really going to call him?” Zainea called to the defense table where Trefethen and her attorneys, Jeffrey Toothaker and Smith, were sitting.

“We may,” Toothaker said.

Maddox a small, helpful boy

Williams’ mother, Victoria Vose, was the first witness Wednesday. She has spoken publicly about Maddox’s death and the state’s child protective system, testifying to the Government Oversight Committee in February that the state failed her grandson.

Vose described Maddox Wednesday as a small but helpful boy. He liked to help her dust and vacuum the floors. Prosecutors showed the jury a short video of Maddox pushing a vacuum with one hand, carrying the looped cord in his other, and dragging at his feet.

“He was, oh, beautiful,” Vose said tearfully, blinking. “He was funny …. He had a great sense of humor.”

He liked chicken nuggets, and children’s shows like Cocomelon, Baby Shark and Paw Patrol. Their characters were on his pull-up diapers at Vose’s house to help with potty training. Maddox’s birth was premature and he had to stay at Northern Light Hospital in Bangor for a couple of months before Trefethen took him home, Vose said.

When another of Trefethen’s children overdosed on methadone in 2018, Department of Health and Human Services workers removed the kids from her care, according to what Vose told lawmakers in February. Maddox was sent to live with his father and grandmother from then until February 2020, when Andrew was arrested for an attempted robbery to which he brought Maddox. Maddox then was returned to his mother.

When he was released on bail, Williams and Vose were able to have Maddox every other week, from October to December 2020. In 2021, Williams and Vose had few regular visits with Maddox until Williams was arrested again on an OUI charge.

The Williams family last saw Maddox in March 2021, except for a few video calls.

Vose testified Trefethen would constantly make excuses about why the grandmother couldn’t see Maddox (the COVID-19 pandemic, work, Maddox was sleeping).

Upon questioning from Trefethen’s defense attorneys, Vose said her former daughter-in-law had also shared safety concerns related to Williams’ arrests.

Vose and Williams noticed bruising during the six months they shared custody with Trefethen, she testified. But Trefethen’s defense attorney pointed out that Williams’ sister, Mikayla, was a daycare worker and therefore a mandated reporter of suspected abuse. Mikayla testified that she never felt enough concern about Maddox to report anything to DHHS.

This was one of five child homicides that occurred in 2021. It was the deadliest year on record for children who have been involved with the state’s child protection system under the Office of Child and Family Services. More than two dozen children died; not all of them were homicides, but their deaths sparked outrage in the state Legislature. The Government Oversight Committee voted in September to subpoena Department of Health and Human Services records from Maddox’s and three other cases to view confidentially, months after state lawmakers agreed to strengthen an independent office tasked with investigating complaints against child protective services.

Trefethen’s trial is also the first since a Maine law took effect this summer ordering state courts to prioritize child homicide cases.

Two more child homicide trials are tentatively scheduled for January and March 2023. And Hilary Goding of Old Town, whose 3-year-old daughter Hailey died of a fentanyl overdose last year, pleaded guilty last week to manslaughter and will be sentenced at a later date.

The trial for a fifth homicide case involving the death of a 1-month-old in August 2021, has yet to be scheduled.