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Woman Pleads Guilty to Abandoning Newborn Son to Die on Minnesota Beach

Jennifer Matter left her baby son to die on a Minnesota beach in 2003, prosecutors say. (Mugshot: Goodhue County Sheriff's Office)

Jennifer Matter left her baby son to die on a Minnesota beach in 2003, prosecutors say. (Mugshot: Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office)

A woman has pleaded guilty to abandoning her newborn son to die on a Minnesota beach during the final days of fall. Jennifer Matter, 50, said in a plea agreement that she left the baby on the beach, “walked away, got into my car, and drove away with no intention of returning,” according to The Associated Press.  She is scheduled to be sentenced on April 28 for second-degree murder.

The criminal case concerns an apparently newborn boy found dead along the Mississippi River on Methodist Beach, but authorities said a boater also found a baby girl floating in that same river near a small boat harbor on Nov. 4, 1999. Investigators eventually determined that both children were related, and through DNA testing, tracked down the girl’s father in 2021. Investigators determined that Matter was the mother to both children. Authorities never charged her in the girl’s death, however.

“A report, dated November 11, 1999, concluded that the infant was a well-developed term female with no congenital abnormalities or obvious injuries,” the complaint stated. “The report further documented that all internal organs and cavities showed change of early decomposition. Finally, the coroner determined that the manner of death was homicide and that the cause of death was undetermined.”

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The autopsy of her younger brother, who was found dead on Dec. 7, 2003, likewise said it was a homicide but the cause of death was undetermined.

“The autopsy documented that the infant was a full term newborn male infant who was probably born alive,” the complaint said. “Additional findings noted blunt force head injuries,
possibly due to the birth process, including multiple small areas of subgaleal hemorrhage, scant left subdural hemorrhage, and intraparenchymal cerebral hemorrhage. No congenital anomalies were noted and there were early decomposition changes. The coroner determined that the manner of death was homicide and that the cause of death was undetermined.”

But Matter, who initially denied being the babies’ mother, claimed to have been caught by surprise when going into labor in 1999, according to the complaint.

“When asked to explain what was going on in her life in 1999, she said that she was in a bad mental state,” authorities said. “She stated that she was in and out of jail, drinking too much, doing a lot of stupid things, and had experienced chaotic life circumstances for a long time. She stated that she was not aware that she was pregnant and that when she was on her way to drop off her kids (age 2 and 5) at school and daycare, that she started bleeding.”

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After dropping off her children, she returned home and gave birth in her bathroom, she said in the complaint. She claimed the baby was born blue, not breathing, and was not crying. Freaking out, she placed the baby in a towel. She estimated a day passed but she was not sure because she was drinking heavily. She never told anyone what happened. She drove to Bay Point Park in the middle of the night, put the baby in the water near the boathouse, and walked off, she said in the complaint.

She admitted the baby boy was born alive, the complaint said.

“Matter said she felt the 2003 infant moving a little bit while it was inside of her stomach,” the complaint said. “Matter did not tell anyone about the 2003 baby as that was not really something someone would want to talk about. Matter said she did not think of or plan to leave the baby somewhere safe after it was born and that she didn’t think she knew what she was going to do. Matter stated she did not go to Frontenac [a community in Goodhue County] knowing she was in labor. Matter stated that during the pregnancy that she never intended to keep the baby, that she did not receive any prenatal care, and that she considered other options like adoption but had no plans to leave him somewhere safe after the birth.”

Matter said she living in Red Wing, Minnesota, and went to the beach to be alone because she was attempting to lay low while facing an arrest warrant.

“Matter stated that she did not remember if she wrapped the second baby up in a towel or a blanket,” the complaint said. “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 before driving away.”

She said the child was breathing fine and may have been crying but she did not remember. She did not call 911 but hoped that someone in the nearby homes would find the baby, the complaint stated.

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