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Mom charged in slaying of baby found in Mississippi River in 2003

Jennifer Matter, 50, of Minnesota, has also been linked to the death of baby girl, her daughter, found in the river in 1999, officials said.
A Minnesota woman has been charged in the death of a baby boy who was found in the Mississippi River in 2003.
A Minnesota woman has been charged in the death of a baby boy who was found in the Mississippi River in 2003.KARE

The Minnesota mother whose two infants were found in the Mississippi River years apart was arrested Monday in one of their slayings, authorities said.

Jennifer Matter, 50, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, Goodhue County Sheriff Marty Kelly said at a news conference.

Her arrest came 8,222 days since the first infant's body was retrieved from the river in 1999, the sheriff said.

"For over 20 years, the deaths of these innocent babies have haunted our community and the countless law enforcement officers that have worked tirelessly on this case," Kelly said. "One of these babies, a girl, would have been living her adult life at 22 years of age. The other, a boy, would have likely graduated high school, with his whole adult life ahead of him."He said that "through DNA ... Matter has been identified as the mother of the babies in 1999 and in 2003."

Goodhue County Attorney Stephen F. O’Keefe said the charges are linked to the discovery of the baby boy in 2003, according to NBC affiliate KARE of Minneapolis.

Matter is expected to be arraigned Tuesday, O’Keefe said, declining to comment further.

She was being held at the Goodhue County jail Monday, officials said. It was unclear whether she had retained an attorney.

Matter's relatives could not be reached for comment.

KARE reported that Matter is from Belvidere Township.

Investigators from Goodhue County and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, or BCA, worked the cases for years. DNA profiles had determined that the babies were related. A break came when DNA profiles were used to conduct a genetic genealogy search that led to potential relatives in Goodhue County, officials said.

A criminal complaint filed against Matter indicated that in June, the Minnesota BCA crime lab used samples to identify the biological father of the girl found in 1999, KARE reported. Prosecutors said in the complaint that interviews with the man helped lead them to Matter. 

Investigators interviewed Matter on April 25, and she denied being the mother of the deceased infants. When Matter was asked to provide a DNA sample, she declined, KARE reported. 

On May 2, a search warrant was executed, and law enforcement collected a DNA sample from her that found her to be a strong match to the infants, the station reported.

A third infant, unrelated to the first two, was discovered in the Mississippi River in 2007, KARE said. An investigation into that infant's death is ongoing, law enforcement officials said.

Jeanne Madtson and her husband secured burial plots for the infants, whom they call Jamie, Corey and Abby, KARE reported.

"There are so many people that want children, that can't have children, that would have probably taken these kids in a heartbeat with no questions asked," she said.

During Monday's media briefing, Kelly, the sheriff, teared up talking about Madtson.

"Thank you, Jeanne, for not forgetting," he said.