A Minnesota woman has been charged in connection with the cold case death of an infant found in the Mississippi River nearly two decades ago. And, police say, she’s linked to another similar cold case as well.
Jennifer Matter, 50, was arrested on Monday. According to Goodhue County jail records, she stands accused of two counts of murder in the second degree — one with intent and one without — over a baby boy who was discovered at Methodist Campus Beach, off Lake Pepin, in the census-designated place of Frontenac, Minn. in December 2003.
According to investigators cited by Minneapolis CBS affiliate WCCO, another infant — a baby girl who was found in the Mississippi River’s Lower Boat Harbor near Red Wing, Minn. in November 1999 — is also the defendant’s daughter.
“It has been 8,222 days since we discovered our first newborn wrapped in a towel and floating in the water near the city of Red Wing,” Goodhue County Sheriff Marty Kelly said during a press conference. “Almost four years later another newborn baby was discovered on the shore of Lake Pepin in Frontenac.”
“Genetic genealogy and rapid DNA testing were both employed to develop a break in the case and then quickly confirm the identity of the babies’ mother,” Minnesota BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said. “These kinds of scientific advances that can aid investigations are happening all the time. That is why it is so important to never give up on any unsolved case.”
Identifying the alleged mother of the two children took some time.
In 2021, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Crime Lab completed DNA testing on the baby girl and identified her biological father. Matter was eventually considered a person of interest.
According to law enforcement, she denied any knowledge about either child when initially interviewed. Last week, police obtained a DNA sample from the defendant by way of a search warrant. Again, authorities say, Matter claimed that she didn’t know anything.
During her third interview, however, Matter allegedly told police that she was “in and out of jail, drinking too much, doing a lot of stupid things,” back in 1999 and admitted that she was pregnant. She allegedly said she didn’t know about the pregnancy until she started bleeding one day as she was dropping off two other children at their school and daycare.
After that, the defendant allegedly said, she “freaked out” because the girl was “blue, was not breathing, and was not crying.”
Matter told police she knew she should have tried to get help but “her mind was not there,” according to a transcript of the interview obtained by WCCO. She then wrapped the baby girl in a towel, the defendant allegedly said, and left her at Bay Point Park in Red Wing in the middle of the night.
Police say the defendant continued to resist the idea of a second abandoned baby but that she eventually said “it was in Frontenac” and that she was “almost positive” she went into labor on a public beach because she was “trying to lay low because she had an arrest warrant and believed cops were looking for her.”
The boy, Matter allegedly said, appeared to be breathing fine. She allegedly admitted to leaving him there, on the beach alone, and “hoped that someone in the nearby houses would find the baby.”
“Matter stated that it was dark outside, it was cold, that she did not look to see the gender of the child, and that she remembered leaving the baby on the beach,” a copy of the police report obtained by the Post Bulletin elaborates.
No charges have been filed in relation to the 1999 case. But, authorities say, that incident is under review and additional charges may eventually be filed against Matter over the girl’s abandonment and death.
“Many members in our office have come and gone,” Kelly added. “It is these two cases that have lingered in their minds, in their hearts.”
[image via Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office]
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