BELFAST — On June 23, 2021, investigators went to Sherry Johnson’s house after a three-day search for her daughter, Jessica Trefethen, in their investigation into the June 20, 2021, death of Trefethen’s son Maddox Williams.

On their earlier visits, Johnson had lied to officials about her daughter’s whereabouts, but she finally admitted that day that Trefethen was at her house.

On Oct. 7, the third day of Trefethen’s trial, jurors listened to tapes of Trefethen talking to investigators at her mother’s home. She is charged with depraved indifference murder in the death of her 3-year-old son.

Maine State Police Corporal Detective for the Major Crimes Unit Ryan Brockway was called upon to investigate Maddox’s death. It is protocol for the State Police to investigate crimes involving children, he said. He started investigating June 21, 2021, and had difficulty tracking Trefethen down.

During those first few days of the investigation, Brockway looked in several places and checked with her employer, Snowman’s Grocery, to see when she would next be into work, he said. He talked with several friends and family, and visited public locations looking for leads as to where she might be.

When investigators asked where Trefethen had been, her response was “everywhere.” She said in the taped interview, which was played at the trial, that she had stayed in the woods, at the waterfront and other locations.

Her friend Matthew Moulton testified earlier Oct. 7 that she asked him if she could stay with him for a couple of days, but he told her no. She told him that she would harm herself if the boy’s autopsy indicated that she had done something to him.

Moulton admitted to lying to police about giving Trefethen a ride in the days after Maddox’s death when authorities were looking for her. He said he took her toward Bucksport, stopping at a marijuana dispensary that was closed, then another store, then dropping her off at a friend’s house.

‘Worst nightmare of my life’

Maddox’s death is the worst thing Trefethen has been through, she said in the recorded interview with Brockway and Maine State Police Detective Hugh Landry. She sobbed in the recording at times when she described in a hoarse voice what happened the day of her son’s death.

The family had adopted a puppy recently, which frequently jumped on the children, she said in the recording. The kids were playing outside that day when her daughter told her that the dog dragged Maddox on the ground at some point.

The little boy came in and complained that his stomach hurt, so Trefethen gave him some cereal, then he went back outside, she said. Then he came back in with more complaints. So she had him lie down while she called her mother to come give her a ride to take Maddox to the hospital.

Her mother drove while she sat in the back seat with Maddox, she said. He kept telling her he was thirsty, so she gave him whatever he wanted to drink, like Gatorade or water, she said. Once they got to the hospital, the boy went unconscious, she said. Trefethen had her mother stop the vehicle and she ran in asking for help.

She stayed in the hospital room while medical professionals tried for over an hour to revive the boy, she said.

Scared little boy

Trefethen described Maddox as a “great kid,” she said during a taped interview with investigators. His siblings picked on him a bit but they were glad that he came to live with them when Trefethen took custody of him several months before the boy’s death.

Maddox’s father, Andrew Williams of Warren, lost custody of him after he was caught burglarizing a house and driving drunk with the kid, she said.

When Maddox came to live with her, she could not “change his butt” without his screaming, though he did not have a diaper rash, she said in the taped interview. He was scared of closets and of being alone.

Trefethen admitted during the interview that she was not much of a disciplinarian and that the kids usually slept wherever they wanted in the house, she said. She would yell at them and send them to their room but did not punish them much beyond that, she said. Since she regained custody of her kids in late 2019, she did not discipline them much.

“These kids get away with murder and then some,” she said. “That’s probably not the word I should use.”

She described her kids as wild and spoiled, she said during the interview. She would take them to the Dollar Store and buy them tattoos and stickers.

Easily bruised

Trefethen described Maddox as an easily bruised child, she said in the taped interview played at the trial. He was a premature baby and spent the first several weeks of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She described him as a very small boy.

When Maddox came to live with her he had a bump on his head and two missing front teeth, she said. When investigators asked her about the third missing tooth, she did not know that he had a third missing tooth. They told her the medical examiner determined that it had been lost within days before his death.

The boy was eating well and meeting milestones when he was living with her, she said in the taped interview. She told investigators that she did not know what could have caused his injuries but described an incident within the week before he died in which he fell off of the trampoline and landed on the grass, but said he did not appear to be severely injured.

The investigators described Maddox’s injuries as blunt force trauma and that he had a fracture in his lower spine, they said in the interview tape. She told them he appeared to be walking fine before his death. Hearing them describe his injuries made her “sick to her stomach.”

State prosecutors at the murder trial Oct. 7 display Maddox Williams’ shirt that state officials determined contained his blood. Photo by Kendra Caruso

Siblings, parents allegedly mistreated Maddox

In her testimony earlier Friday, Johnson said she did not usually take several of Trefethen’s children by herself, describing the two oldest Trefethen children as rough with Maddox. She would often scold them for mistreating the boy.

Maddox’s two older siblings would slap, hit or punch him while walking by, Johnson said. They would also exclude him from play and tell him that he was not their brother. The two older siblings at the time considered the youngest brother to be their sibling. Trefethen has six children, four of whom are with her former spouse Jason Trefethen, but Maddox had a different father.

Trefethen had witnessed the abuse from siblings and tried to scold them but did not stop the behavior, the grandmother said.

Jason did not interact much with Maddox and would refer to him using expletives and a slur, Johnson said. She heard him call the boy “weird.” She also witnessed Trefethen use expletives and a slur toward the boy, also telling him that he was just like his father.

Jason treated Maddox like his own, Trefethen said in the taped interview. He only watched Maddox for short periods when Trefethen needed to go to the store, she said. When she went to work, her mother would watch the boy. Jason watched his biological children while she worked.

Moulton testified on day three of the trial that he had never seen any signs of abuse on Maddox during the time he was friends with Trefethen. Most of the time she would visit him at his Swanville home, sometimes with three of her children and sometimes without them, he said.

He remembers seeing the kids play together but to him it seemed like normal sibling interactions, he testified. There were times when he saw the kids play rough with Maddox. He was asked about the trampoline the kids frequently used and indicated it was “regular sized,” standing a few feet high.

When the state interviewed the two older Trefethen children about Maddox’s death, Brockway confirmed to Trefethen’s defense attorney Jeffrey Toothaker, referring to investigation documents, that the two siblings left Maddox out when asked about who their family members were.

The court will reconvene Tuesday, Oct. 11, where the state will continue to call witnesses.

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