Minnesota woman pleads guilty to leaving newborn to die next to lake
A Minnesota woman admitted in a guilty plea Wednesday that she left her newborn baby boy to die on the shore of a lake in 2003, CBS Minnesota reported.
Jennifer Matter, 50, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the baby's death. She will be sentenced April 28.
Matter was arrested May 10, 2022, at her home in Belvidere Township outside Red Wing.
Prosecutors have said DNA evidence also links Matter to a baby girl found dead by the Mississippi River in 1999. Matter has not been charged in that case.
Teenagers found the baby boy's body Dec. 7, 2003, in Frontenac on the shore of Lake Pepin, a body of water on the Mississippi River.
Citing the criminal complaint, CBS Minnesota reported that Matter said she left the baby on the beach before driving away, and said she did not have a plan about leaving the baby in a safe place, but "hoped that someone in the nearby houses would find the baby."
"I left (the baby) on the beach, walked away, got into my car, and drove away with no intention of returning," Matter said in the plea agreement.
Investigators said DNA samples tied both infants to Matter by a genealogy search that led to potential relatives in Goodhue County.
"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," Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans said after Matter was charged last year. "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."
In 2021, the Minnesota BCA Crime Lab was able to determine and identify the biological father of the infant found in 1999, and worked to establish that Matter was a person of interest. Investigators interviewed her, and she denied knowing anything about either case. When they sampled her DNA sample on a search warrant last week, she again denied knowing about either baby.
On a third interview with investigators, Matter told them that back in 1999, she was "in and out of jail, drinking too much, doing a lot of stupid things," and that she didn't know she was pregnant until she started bleeding while on the way to drop off two other kids at school and daycare.
She said she then gave birth at home in her bathroom and "freaked out" when she saw the baby was born "blue, was not breathing, and was not crying." She said she knew she should've sought help but that "her mind was not there." She wrapped the baby and, possibly a day later, left the baby's body at Bay Point Park in the middle of the night.
She told investigators she didn't remember a second baby, but later said "it was in Frontenac," and said she was "almost positive" she was at a public beach alone when she went into labor. She was "trying to lay low because she had an arrest warrant and believed cops were looking for her." She said she didn't remember if the baby was crying, but said it was breathing fine.
She could face up to 27 years and two months in prison, pursuant to 2003 Minnesota sentencing guidelines. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 28.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.