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Mother admits to leaving newborn near Mississippi River in 2003

Jennifer Matter said she gave birth on a beach near the Mississippi River in 2003 with the intention of not coming back to get him.

RED WING, Minn. — The woman accused of leaving her newborn to die by the Mississippi River in 2003 pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Jennifer Matter entered her guilty plea in Goodhue County Court on Wednesday, with a sentencing date scheduled for Apr. 28. 

KARE 11's Jennifer Hoff said Matter admitted to giving birth on Methodist Beach in 2003 and leaving the baby with the intention of not coming back to get him. Prosecutors say DNA evidence also links Matter to a baby girl found by the Mississippi four years earlier, but no charges have been filed.

Investigators arrested Matter in May 10, 2022 at her home in Belvidere Township outside Red Wing. They told reporters during a press conference that DNA samples from both infants — one discovered in the river in 1999, the other in 2003 — were tied to Matter by a genealogy search that led to potential relatives in Goodhue County.

A KARE 11 review of court records found that Matter was a recently-divorced mother of two in 1999 when she became pregnant with the baby eventually dumped in the boat harbor. According to court documents, Matter told investigators she didn't realize she was pregnant, had been drinking too much, and gave birth in her bathroom. She claimed the baby was stillborn and dumped the body at night.

Investigators were able to find the father of the 1999 baby with help from a genetic genealogy company. He was not her ex-husband. By all accounts in the court papers, the man never knew Matter was pregnant.

It is unclear whether authorities have been able to track down the father of the 2003 baby. It is not the same man as in 1999.

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