The mother was charged in 2003 with the death of a baby, linked to a similar incident in 1999

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In 2003, four teenage girls were driving along the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota when they spotted a baby by the water’s edge. The baby was dead – her umbilical cord still attached and wrapped around her body.

The baby’s condition was surprisingly familiar to local law enforcement, officials said. Four years earlier, another infant death stunned the community in Goodhue County, Minnesota. About a dozen miles north, a man found a little girl wrapped in a towel floating in the Mississippi River. She was dead, her umbilical cord also still attached.

County Sheriff’s Office investigators confirmed in 2007 that the babies were related, but 15 years passed before law enforcement found the person. they said is responsible.

On Monday, Goodhue County Sheriff Marty Kelly announced that genetic genealogy and rapid DNA testing led them to the suspect – Jennifer Lynn Matter, who investigators believe is the babies’ mother. The 50-year-old Red Wing in Minnesota resident was arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the 2003 baby death. She faces 40 years in prison per count.

No charges have been filed for the baby’s 1999 death, although they may be ‘changed or added later as further evidence comes to light,’ Goodhue County District Attorney Stephen O’Keefe said Monday. , during a press conference.

It is not known if Matter has an attorney. In a statement to police last week, Matter said she was in a “poor mental state” in 1999, drinking heavily, and “in and out of prison”, according to the criminal complaint.

The murder of a young girl has gone unsolved for almost 58 years. A 20-year-old student helped solve the case.

For years, the babies’ deaths “haunted our community” and weighed on law enforcement working on the case, Kelly said at the press conference.

“One of those babies, a girl, would have lived out her adult life at 22,” Kelly said. “The other, a boy, probably just graduated from high school, with his whole adult life ahead of him.”

The identification of Matter as a suspect is the latest example of how genetic genealogy can advance or help solve decades-old investigations. In February, Pennsylvania investigators solved a nearly six-decade-old cold case, announcing they had identified the man who kidnapped, raped and killed 9-year-old Marise Ann Chiverella. He died in 1980. In March, Arizona law enforcement used DNA analysis to identify the remains of a baby girl found in the desert in 1960 as Sharon Lee Gallegos, a child 4-year-old who was kidnapped by a couple near her home in New Mexico. The police have not identified those responsible.

In the Minnesota case, a man was in his boat on the Mississippi River alongside the town of Red Wing on Nov. 4, 1999, when he spotted a white towel floating in the water near the boathouses. He thought he had fallen off his boat and went to retrieve it, but when he grabbed the towel and hoisted it up, a little girl fell. An autopsy report days after the incident revealed that “the infant was a well-developed full-term female with no birth defects or obvious injuries,” the arrest warrant states. “…The coroner determined that the manner of death was homicide and the cause of death was undetermined.

The second baby was found near Lac Pépin on December 7, 2003. The autopsy report says the baby was “probably born alive,” according to the warrant. He had “blunt injuries to the head, probably from the birth process” and signs of haemorrhage in several parts of the brain. The coroner, who also performed the 1999 autopsy, came to the same conclusion: “that the manner of death was homicide and the cause of death was undetermined.

Since then, investigators have searched for more than 70 possible genetic matches, which ultimately turned out to be unrelated to the babies.

In 2020, the Sheriff’s Office raised thousands of dollars from the community to fund a partnership with Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology and genetic genealogy company. Parabon quickly identified possible family matches, which investigators believe led them to Matter.

Members of the sheriff’s office and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension visited Matter on April 25, the warrant said. During the interview, Matter reportedly said she knew nothing about the 1999 baby and refused to give a DNA sample. Investigators returned on May 2 with a search warrant to take the sample.

Her DNA was then sent to a lab in St. Paul, about 80 miles north of the county, where rapid DNA technology was used to identify Matter as the mother of the two babies.

During a third visit on May 5, Matter told investigators she “did a lot of stupid things” in 1999, had a drinking problem and had a “chaotic life,” the warrant said. She would have added that she didn’t know she was pregnant and only realized something was wrong when she started bleeding while driving her 2 and 5-year-olds to daycare and at school. When she got home, she gave birth to the baby girl in her bathroom, according to the warrant.

“Matter said the baby was born blue, not breathing or crying, so she panicked,” court documents say. “Matter said she knew she should have gotten help but her spirit wasn’t there.”

An unidentified child found dead in 1960 has been nicknamed “Little Miss Nobody”. The authorities now know his name.

Frightened, Matter wrapped the baby in a towel and began “drinking a lot,” she reportedly told investigators. Matter took the baby to Bay Point Park in Red Wing in the middle of the night, the warrant says, and left the newborn in the water near the boathouses. The infant was found a few days later.

After initially denying knowing anything about the 2003 baby, Matter reportedly admitted giving birth to the second baby on the beach in Frontenac.

“She explained that she was ‘almost certain’ she was alone at the public beach when she gave birth,” the warrant read. “Matter said she couldn’t remember if she wrapped the second baby in a towel or a blanket… [and] that she did not look to see the sex of the child.

The baby was alive when she left him on the beach, Matter reportedly told investigators, adding that she never planned what she would do when she had the baby. She said she expected someone who lived nearby to find the baby, so she didn’t call 911.

The case is being held in the county jail and is due in court on Tuesday when bail is set.

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