Jennifer Matter, 50, was arrested in connection with the 2003 death of a newborn baby boy that was discovered deceased on the shores of Lake Pepin in Frontenac, Minnesota. She has been charged with second-degree murder.
On December 7, 2003, the remains of a newborn boy were discovered on the Method Campus Beach in Frontenac, Minnesota. Four teenage girls found the baby on the water’s edge, with its umbilical cord wrapped around his torso. The Goodhue County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the boy had been born full-term, alive and healthy at the time of his delivery. According to the medical examiner, the cause of death was ruled a homicide, but the specific cause of death could not be determined.
The entire community of Red Wing, Minnesota, raised $10,000 in donations that were needed to perform the expensive and necessary DNA testing. Investigators entered the DNA of the Frontenac newborn boy into the various national databases, hoping to discover a clue to his identity or the identity of his parents. No knowledge was discovered and his case went cold.
Local investigators recalled another newborn that had been born and abandoned 4-years prior to the Frontenac baby. On November 4, 1999, at approximately 1:15 p.m., a newborn baby girl was found in the Lower Boat Harbor of the Mississippi River near the town of Red Wing, Minnesota. It had been discovered, wrapped in a towel and floating in the harbor by a fisherman who was motoring his small boat out to fish. On a hunch, DNA comparisons were performed on the two infants and found them to be maternally related but with different paternity.
It was through genetic genealogy and Rapid DNA testing performed by the Minnesota BCA Crime Lab that the father of the 1999 Lower Boat Harbour newborn was identified. The man agreed to provide his DNA for comparison, which solidified his parentage. He had no knowledge that the woman in his past had been pregnant, but was able to offer details into the identity of the mother.
The Interviews of Jennifer Matter
Investigators questioned a woman named Jennifer Matter regarding the deaths of the two newborns discovered in 1999 and 2003 in the greater Red Wing, MN area. Initially, Matter stated that she had no knowledge of either baby. They asked her for a sample of her DNA, which she declined. On May 2, 2022, during a second interview, detectives obtained a warrant for Matter’s DNA, which was tested and found to be a positive match, identifying her as the mother of both babies. Matter, again, denied any knowledge regarding either baby.
In the third interview with Matter on May 5, 2022, she confessed and explained the details of the 1999 newborn girl. Matter stated during that time in her life, she was “in and out of jail, drinking too much, and doing a lot of stupid things.”. She explained that she had driven two of her other children (ages 2 years and 5 years) to school and daycare, but had started bleeding during the quick trip. When she arrived back at home, she gave birth in the home’s bathroom to a baby that she didn’t know that she was pregnant with. Matter described the baby girl as being blue and non-responsive. Instead of calling for assistance, she wrapped the baby in a towel and drove her to Bay Point Park in the Red Wing area, in the middle of the night. She insisted that she had no knowledge of the Frontenac baby.
The Confession of Jennifer Matter
During a subsequent interview, she confessed to the Frontenac newborn. Matter explained that at the time in 2003, she had been at the Lake Pepin area, “lying low” because she had a warrant out for her arrest and was trying to stay out of view from the police. She stated that she went into labor and delivered the boy to the beach. She said that the baby did not cry, but that it was breathing fine. Matter loosely wrapped the umbilical cord around his body and drove away. She also explained that she had hoped that he would start crying and someone from one of the neighboring houses would hear him and collect him.
Matter told investigators that she never received prenatal care during the 2003 pregnancy and that she never intended to keep the baby. She shared that she had considered putting the baby up for adoption, but made no plans to do so. She also stated that she hadn’t told anyone that she was pregnant.
Following the birth of the 2003 baby, Matter worked as a cosmetologist in the Red Wing area. She gave birth in 2008, which provided her third living child.
The Arrest of Jennifer Matter
A warrant for the arrest of Jennifer Lynn Matter was issued by the State of Minnesota, County of Goodhue, 1st Judicial District Court. The charges on the warrant were listed as one charge of Second Degree Murder-With Intent-Not Premeditated and one charge of Second Degree Murder – Without Intent. She was arrested at her home in Belvidere Township, just outside the city limits of Red Wing, on May 10. 2022. A copy of the arrest warrant can be found here.
On January 25, 2023, Matter pleaded guilty to the 2003 Frontenac newborn death. In a plea agreement, Matter stated, “I left (the baby) on the beach, walked away, got into my car, and drove away with no intention of returning.” Matter’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 28, 2023. She faces a 40-year prison sentence.
In 2011, Red Wing residents, Don and Jeanne Madtson, donated their family cemetery plot in the local Oakwood Cemetery, as a final resting place for both newborn babies from Matter, in addition to two other babies that are unrelated to the Matter’s newborn’s. Goodhue County Sheriff Marty Kelly stated that the Madtson family immediately stepped forward to offer any assistance that they could. “There is one person, however, who has lived this case with our law enforcement partners alongside of us for 22 years – Jeanne Madtson. She’s cared for these children, held their funerals, paid for their burials, and most importantly, she never forgot”.
In April 2023, a judge sentenced Jennifer Matter to serve 27 years in prison for the murder of her newborn baby boy. No charges have been brought against her for the babies found.