Red Wing woman admits leaving newborn son to die on banks of Mississippi River in 2003

RED WING, Minn. — A Minnesota woman admitted in a guilty plea Wednesday that she left her newborn son to die on the banks of the Mississippi River in 2003.

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 newborn girl found dead in the Mississippi in Red Wing in 1999. Matter has not been charged in that case, and she told investigators that the girl was not breathing when she was born.

Teenagers found the baby boy’s body on Dec. 7, 2003, in Frontenac on the shore of Lake Pepin, where the Mississippi River widens.

Medical examiners determined the baby’s death was a homicide, but his cause of death was undetermined.

“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.

According to the criminal complaint, Matter said she hoped someone who lived nearby would find him alive. In both abandomnents, Matter told investigators that her life was in turmoil as she struggled with alcohol use and troubles with the law.

Investigators said DNA samples linked both infants to Matter by a genealogy search that led to potential relatives in Goodhue County.

In March 2007, a third infant was found dead in the Mississippi near the Treasure Island casino and resort in Welch. DNA testing at the time indicated that newborn girl was not related to the other two babies, officials said.

All three babies are buried together in Red Wing’s Oakwood Cemetery, after a local couple, Don and Jeanne Madtson, donated the graves and a tombstone in their family plot.

Under Minnesota’s Safe Place for Newborns law, enacted in 2000, a mother or immediate family member of a newborn can place the unharmed child into the hands of a hospital employee on hospital grounds with complete anonymity during the first three days of the child’s life.

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