STOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine — Annabelle Fuller used to see Jessica Williams and her 3-year-old son Maddox come into the Big Apple convenience store where she worked. Every time, she said, the young boy said he was hungry, and she would give him granola and candy bars.
Fuller, 23, of Stockton Springs had other connections to Jessica Williams, who was arrested Wednesday and charged with murdering Maddox. She used to babysit Williams’ oldest child when she and that child’s biological father were neighbors.
Fuller on Thursday said she was pleased Williams had been arrested, but she lamented that nothing was done to help the young boy she once worried about.
“I am absolutely distraught about the fact that Maddox was still with her,” Fuller said.
Stockton Springs residents on Thursday were coming to grips with the second killing of a child since 2018 in the Waldo County community of about 2,000 residents, again allegedly at the hands of the child’s caregiver.
Maddox Williams was pronounced dead on Sunday after Jessica Williams and her mother brought the boy to Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast. State police learned of the child’s death at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Williams, 35, was arrested at her mother’s home in Stockton Springs on Wednesday afternoon and taken to Waldo County Jail in Belfast.
“I’m very sorry to that sweet little boy for losing his life to his own mother,” Fuller said of the murder charge Williams is facing.
Not only does the 3-year-old’s killing mark the third of a young Maine child in which a parent is charged in less than a month, it comes three years after 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy was beaten to death by her mother, Sharon Kennedy, and stepfather, Julio Carrillo, in the family’s Stockton Springs condominium.
“What is this, a trend now?” said one Stockton Springs man, who did not want to be identified.
Marissa Kennedy’s beating death, following the death of 4-year-old Kendall Chick in Wiscasset two months earlier, focused intense scrutiny on Maine’s child welfare system, which never confirmed Marissa was being abused until after her death despite receiving 25 reports about her family in the 16 months leading up to her death.
Discussion about Jessica Williams has lit up local Facebook groups. On one page, a post showed side-by-side photos of Marissa Kennedy and Maddox Williams, describing both as the “lost children of Stockton Springs.”
Stockton Springs is not a poor community by some official measures. Its median household income is 20 percent higher than the rest of Waldo County and 10 percent higher than the state’s. Many who live there have large homes with scenic views of the Penobscot River.
Yet many residents, several of whom did not want to be identified, said there was an undercurrent of poverty and substance use disorder in the town similar to that in numerous other Maine communities. What happens to children like Maddox can occur behind closed doors without the rest of town even knowing, they said.
Jessica Williams made several public posts on social media about the condition in which she lived. In the Maine Coronavirus Community Assistance group on Facebook, Williams posted appeals for help starting early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Often, she asked for money so she could buy birthday gifts and cake for some of her five children.
On March 25, 2020, she asked for money so she could buy diapers and formulas for her youngest child. About two-and-a-half months later, she asked for money so she could do laundry. This past winter, on Jan. 31, she asked for help through Cash App so she could buy “a couple jugs” of oil to last her family a few more days. Her most recent post came on May 15, when she asked for money to buy cake and presents to celebrate a child’s upcoming birthday.
Williams’ criminal history on file with the Maine State Bureau of Identification shows charges dating back to when she was 20 in 2006.
That year, she faced felony charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and reckless conduct as well as a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. Ultimately, she was convicted of criminal conspiracy, a misdemeanor, after which she was sentenced to 14 days in jail and a year of probation and was ordered to pay nearly $1,600 in restitution.
She has also faced charges of telephone harassment, theft, negotiating a worthless instrument (often, writing a bad check) and violating the conditions of her release, occasionally resulting in fines and short stays in jail. She also was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail and to pay more than $1,000 restitution stemming from a 2011 burglary charge.
However, her criminal history shows Williams had not been in trouble with the law since 2014.
“The death of a child who was innocent and who died at the hands of the person in the world who should protect them the most is just devastating,” Becky Stephens, an extended family member of Williams, told CBS 13.
“We thought it was really wrong. It made me actually really sick to my stomach,” Austin Corson-Dow, who is fostering Maddox Williams’ cousin, told CBS 13. “The child that was murdered, she’s actually really close to. She loved that child to death and spent a lot of time with that kid before she was my foster child.”
Dan Jacobson, 69, a retired physician who lives in Stockton Springs during the summer, said he was shocked by the news of Maddox Williams’ death. While such tragedies happen across the country, you don’t expect it in small-town Maine, he said.
For Jacobson, the real question is whether there were signs of child abuse or neglect that others could have detected to prevent Maddox’s killing.
“I just hope the community responds to it and heals,” Jacobson said, “and that it may be a little red flag to look out for signs that something could happen.”
The state police’s Major Crimes Unit is investigating Maddox’s death. The cause of his death was determined by the Maine Medical Examiner’s Office to be multiple blunt force trauma that was inflicted non-accidentally.