May 18, 2022

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Mom arrested after DNA links her to babies left in 2003 and 1999 along Mississippi River

Minnesota authorities arrested the mother of a baby found dead along the Mississippi River in 2003, and another baby found dead along the river in 1999.

Jennifer Lynn Matter, a 50-year-old resident of Belvidere Township, was arrested Monday on two counts of second-degree murder. Investigators with the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension connected Matter to the infants through DNA testing. 

“The deaths of these innocent babies have haunted our community and the countless law enforcement officers that have worked tirelessly on this case,” Goodhue County Sheriff Marty Kelly said in a news conference. “Many members in our office have come and gone, and it is these two cases that have lingered in their minds and their hearts.”

The baby boy was discovered unclothed with its umbilical cord attached on the shore of Methodist Beach, southeast of Minneapolis, on the afternoon of Dec. 7, 2003, according to a criminal complaint. An autopsy concluded the boy was a full-term baby likely born alive, and the death was ruled a homicide with no known cause of death.

In 2004, law enforcement concluded the boy was related to a newborn baby girl who was found dead floating in the Mississippi River on Nov. 4, 1999. The girl was found wrapped in a towel, also with the umbilical cord attached, off the shore of the City of Red Wing, west of where the baby boy was found, according to the criminal complaint.

The infant deaths remained unsolved for years, but authorities reopened the case in September 2020. In June 2021, DNA samples from the babies connected them to Matter, the criminal complaint says.

Investigators interviewed Matter on April 25, and she denied the baby girl was her child, saying she wasn’t pregnant in the time frame and declined a voluntary DNA sample.

On May 2, investigators completed a search warrant for a sample of Matter’s DNA, and testing gave “very strong evidence” Matter was the mother of the baby girl, as well as the baby boy.