Parents charged in death of infant daughter

By JoEllen Black/Richmond News

A Richmond couple was charged Friday in the death of their infant daughter.

Rebecca A. Matthews, 24, and husband Dennis J. Matthews, 25, were charged with Abuse of a Child – Resulting in Death, an A felony, by Ray County Prosecutor Danielle Rogers. According to the affidavit of complaint, the Matthewses are accused of either acting alone or in concert to have “inflicted cruel and inhuman punishment” on their 3-week-old daughter, Aphril Diane Berniece Matthews, on or around Aug. 18. The infant, born three weeks premature on July 29, died from blunt force trauma to her chest and abdomen, according to court records.

In her probable cause statement, Susan Clevenger, an investigator with the Missouri State Technical Assistance Team, stated the infant was placed in her crib at 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 17 by her mother and was found dead at 9:51 a.m. Aug. 18, also by her mother. Both parents were home during the timeframe, Clevenger states, although the child was not fed, changed or checked after she was placed in bed until 9:51 a.m. the next day.

The infant was initially thought to have died of natural causes until an autopsy revealed the infant suffered various injuries to her body, including fractured ribs “in various states of healing.” The cause of death was deemed blunt force trauma to the chest, according to court records.

Clevenger states that both parents deny causing harm to their daughter when interviewed, and didn’t know how she suffered the internal injuries.

On Sept. 19 however, Dennis Matthews suspected the couple’s 4-year-old got up during the night and climbed into the infant’s crib and fell on her, causing the injuries and death, according to the probable cause statement. He then said his 4-year-old would have climbed out of the crib and gone back to its own bedroom.


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