Murder charges filed in 2003, child death found in Mississippi

Jennifer Matter, 50, of rural Red Wing, admitted to leaving two babies in or near the Mississippi River in 1999 and 2003, according to the criminal complaint.

RED WING, Minn. — Describing it as a mystery that has touched the hearts of law enforcement and community residents for decades, Goodhue County Sheriff Marty Kelly announced charges have been filed against a woman linked to two children found dead. in the Mississippi River in 1999 and 2003.

Authorities say Jennifer Matter, 50, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the 2003 death of a little boy from the river. Goodhue County District Attorney Stephen O’Keefe said additional charges were pending as prosecutors finalized the case. of a newborn girl found in the Mississippi River nearly four years earlier.

The case is being held at the Goodhue County Law Enforcement Center following his arrest just after 6:30 a.m. Monday at his home in Belvidere Township. Sheriff Kelly said the accused was arrested without incident.

“Did she know it was coming? I think she did,” Kelly told reporters at a news conference on Monday.

The cases of the infants, along with a third baby whose lifeless body was pulled from Mississippi in 2007, were recently profiled by KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse. They remained unresolved through the administrations of three former Goodhue County sheriffs, all of whom left office with small children in mind.

RELATED: Minnesota Unsolved: The Mystery of Babies in the Water

“For more than 20 years, the deaths of these innocent babies have haunted the community and the countless law enforcement officers who worked tirelessly on this case,” Kelly said.

Investigators from Goodhue County and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension have been working the case for all these years, following tips and leads, but to no avail. DNA profiles obtained during autopsies performed on the children had previously determined that they were related. The rift eventually came when DNA profiles were used to conduct a genetic genealogy search that led to potential relatives in Goodhue County.

A criminal complaint filed against Matter says that in June 2021, Minnesota crime lab BCA used the samples to identify the biological father of the girl found in 1999. Prosecutors say in the complaint that interviews with that man and d further inquiries led them to the accused.

Investigators interviewed Jennifer Matter on April 25, 2022 and said she denied being the mother of the deceased babies. When asked for a DNA sample, investigators said she refused.

On May 2, a search warrant was executed and law enforcement took a DNA sample from Matter. He compared the profiles of the two infants and found that both matched the accused perfectly.

Prosecutors say in the criminal complaint that in a second interview with Goodhue County and BCA investigators, Matter admitted to giving birth to both children, claiming she was drinking too much, inside and out. outside the prison and that she did “a lot of stupid things”. “

In the case of the baby in 2003, Matter allegedly told investigators she went to the river and left the baby on the beach before leaving. She said the child was breathing well and possibly crying.

The complaint says Matter told detectives she did not call 911, but hoped someone would find the baby. Authorities also quote her as saying she never intended to keep the baby, had no prenatal care, and was considering other options like adoption, but she had no intention of leaving him in a safe place after the birth.

Sheriff Kelly credited investigators who didn’t quit and a community that invested in the children’s short lives. He told reporters that local residents contributed the $10,000 that paid for the genealogical research that helped solve the case.

Jennifer Matter is due to make her first appearance in Goodhue County Court on Tuesday.

Authorities have made it clear they do not believe Matter is related to the death of the third child discovered in Mississippi in 2007. They are asking anyone who knows anything about the case to call them with information.

RELATED: Goodhue Co. Sheriff’s Office Seeks Public’s Help In Cold Cases

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