A Stockton Springs woman will stand trial this week for murder in the 2021 death of her 3-year-old son.
Last year was deadliest ever recorded for children who have been involved in the state child welfare system. More than two dozen children have died, five of them have been classified as homicides, and this is the first jury trial.
Jessica Williams, a 36-year-old Stockton Springs woman, is charged with “depraved indifference murder” in the June 2021 death of 3-year-old Maddox Williams.
Court documents show Maddox had severe bruises and abrasions, a fractured spine, internal bleeding in his brain and stomach, and several missing teeth. The state medical examiner’s office determined after an autopsy that they matched marks typically left by “inflicted wounds.”
Jury selection begins Tuesday.
Williams brought Maddox to Waldo General Hospital on June 20, 2021, where he was pronounced dead. She told hospital staff he was knocked down by a dog and kicked by his sister, according to an affidavit.
The trial is expected to reveal more information about what happened to Maddox and why prosecutors believe Williams was responsible for his death. Child welfare reform advocates say it will also expose flaws in Maine’s child welfare system, overseen by the Department of Health’s Office of Child and Family Services. and Maine Social Services.
Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Cumberland, said he has attended several child homicide trials and only then does the public learn how many times DHHS has been called to the home of a child, or how many times he agreed to withdraw or return a child. .
“We don’t really find out — the public, the legislature, the press — where things went wrong until there’s a trial,” said Diamond, who served more than two decades on the court. State House and created the state’s child welfare system. and his issues with child homicides his key issue.
Diamond sponsored a law last year requiring Maine courts to prioritize child homicide cases.
Logan Marr suffocated to death in 2001 after Sally Ann Schofield of Chelsea, his adoptive mother and a DHHS supervisor, covered her mouth with duct tape. During the trial, jurors heard that child protection officers did not follow up on reports from Marr’s birth mother that Schofield had harmed the girl.
In 2019, a Lincoln County judge heard that child protection officers had only visited 4-year-old Kendall Chick at her grandfather’s home in Wiscasett twice in the eight months before her death. , despite numerous reports from school officials and neighbors that Chick was being abused there. The judge ruled that Chick died due to repeated physical abuse and sentenced his grandfather’s girlfriend to 50 years in state prison for murder.
After Maddox’s death, his grandmother Victoria Vose told the Legislative Assembly Government Oversight Committee in February that he should never have been returned to his mother’s care. Vose told lawmakers and a judge that Jessica Williams had a “history” of abuse that DHHS was aware of.
She said that when Maddox was 3 months old, her 2-year-old brother overdosed on methadone. But Maddox was returned to his custody in March 2021.
“I was caught off guard,” Vose said at the time. “I personally asked the judge not to place him with her, just like her guardian (appointed by the court). I had a few minutes to hand it to him, a stranger who had shown no interest in him.
When Maddox died, Jessica Williams was living in an RV with her former husband, Jason Trefethen, and three of her other children. Maddox’s father, Andrew Williams, who was in jail at the time of Maddox’s death, told police his relationship with Jessica Williams was volatile and ended while she was still pregnant.
Jessica Williams was stopped June 23, 2021, at his mother’s house. Maine State Police spent days tracking her down.
She told police Maddox had been playing outside with her daughter and was run over by a dog. She suggested Maddox’s bruises and missing teeth, which Andrew Williams and his family had mentioned to police in previous interviews, came from playing with his siblings and falling off a trampoline. But the Maine medical examiner’s office found that Maddox’s injuries didn’t fit any of those explanations.
The government’s Oversight Committee voted 10 to 1 in September to subpoena DHHS records of Maddox’s case for confidential viewing, along with those of three other homicide cases where victim abuse had been reported to DHHS.
A DHHS spokesperson said in an email Monday that the safety of Maine’s children is the agency’s top priority and that it has made changes in recent years, including hiring more social workers. and increasing resources for foster families.
“The Department accelerated planned improvements and worked to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and its side effects, resulting in more children at risk of abuse and neglect, more unrest related to substance use among parents and strained care systems to support them – in Maine and across the country,” wrote Jackie Farwell.
The Office of Child and Family Services reported 29 child deaths in 2021. All 29 are unrelated to abuse and neglect. Some, the agency noted, may have been accidental or natural deaths reported because a family had prior involvement unrelated to DHHS.
Old Town’s Hilary Goding, 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.
Brewer’s Ronald Harding was charged last June with manslaughter in the death of his 6-week-old son. He could be tried as early as January.
Buckfield’s Trevor Averill was charged in September with manslaughter in the death of his 2-month-old daughter, Harper Averill, with a trial tentatively scheduled for March.
Trials have not yet been scheduled for several other cases. Reginald Melvin de Milo was charged with murder in January in the death of his one-month-old son Sylus Melvin in August 2021. Ashley Malloy of Oakland was charged with manslaughter in the death of his son Karson Malloy in March. And Mariah Dobbins of Easton was charged in July with manslaughter in the death of her one-year-old son, Jaden Raymond.
Central Maine Arrest Log: September 23-30
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