If you are concerned about a child being neglected or abused, call Maine’s 24-hour hotline at 800-452-1999 or 711 to speak with a child protective specialist. Calls may be made anonymously. For more information, visit maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cw/reporting_abuse.
BELFAST, Maine — A Waldo County judge has ordered the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to share with the court all of its records regarding Maddox Williams and his three siblings.
The Stockton Springs 3-year-old died in June after suffering a fractured spine, bleeding in his brain, a ruptured bowel and other injuries. His mother, Jessica Trefethen, has been charged with the depraved indifference murder of her son.
After his death, Maine Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea asked the court to approve a subpoena for the DHHS records of Maddox and three of his siblings, who are 8, 6 and 2 years old.
“Upon information and belief, prior to Maddox’s death and continuing after his murder, DHHS has been involved in child protective investigations with respect to Maddox [and the others],” she wrote in a motion filed on June 25. “The state anticipates that the DHHS records will include statements from Trefethen and other witnesses regarding the care of Maddox Williams and the events leading to his death.”
Because the records are confidential, the state needed the court order to obtain them. Zainea indicated that she wouldn’t be able to properly prepare for trial without the records.
Trefethen’s attorney, Jeff Toothaker, has no objection to the request, Zainea wrote.
On July 20, Superior Court Justice Robert Murray ruled that Maine DHHS had to deliver all records to the court within 30 days. Jackie Farwell, the communications director for Maine DHHS, said Tuesday that the department is in the process of fulfilling the court order. When the documents have been shared with the court, Murray will review them privately with the help of someone from the department to identify portions of the documents that are not relevant or of such a sensitive and confidential nature that they should not be released.
After that, both the prosecutor’s office and the defense attorney will be permitted to review the portions of the documents that have not been excluded, Murray wrote. The documents required to remain in the court clerk’s office at all times and no information contained in them is to be shared with Trefethen or anyone else, barring another court order.
Maine’s child welfare system was thrust back into the spotlight this summer following the deaths of Maddox and three other children under the age of 4. Attempts had been made to reform Maine’s child welfare system after two high-profile child deaths in 2017 and 2018. Some advocates say those efforts have been insufficient.
After Maddox’s death, Maine DHHS officials said they would bring in Casey Family Programs, a national organization focused on reducing the need for foster care, to review all four child death cases. The review is underway, Farwell said, and is expected to be completed in October.
In July, two long-standing members of the board of directors for Maine’s child welfare ombudsman resigned, saying the Maine Department of Health and Human Services is not receptive to the office that is supposed to oversee it.