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By David Knopf/Richmond News
A Richmond couple charged with the death of their 3-week-old daughter for allegedly having “inflicted cruel and unusual punishment” appeared in court Tuesday with separate attorneys, both public defenders.
Dennis Matthews, 25, and his wife, Rebecca Matthews, 24, are charged with Abuse of a Child – Resulting in Death, an A felony.
If convicted, they face a range of punishment from 10 years to life
Their daughter, Aphril Diane Berniece Matthews, was born three weeks’ premature on July 29. She died on or around Aug. 18, according to court records, from blunt force trauma to the chest and abdomen.
The child initially was thought to have died from natural causes, but a mandatory autopsy revealed injuries that included fractured ribs “in various states of healing.”
On Tuesday, Melinda Troeger, Dennis Matthews’ public defender, requested that Judge James Thompson schedule her client for a preliminary hearing.
The hearing would determine if probable cause exists to have the case bound over for circuit court – or have the charges amended or dismissed.
Thompson, Troeger and Assistant Prosecutor Sarah Hartley agreed on a Dec. 13 court date, but needed confirmation from an assistant state attorney general who will assist the prosecution.
“I would ask Mrs. Hartley to contact the AG’s office to see if that would work for them,” Thompson said.
Hartley requested a December hearing to give her office more time to prepare its case.
“This is a little more complicated case than the usual prelim we do,” she said.
Thompson said that while he expected the hearing to be lengthy, his preference would be to work it in soon.