Richmond couple allegedly fatally beat 3-week-old daughter - WSFX - FOX Wilmington, NC

Richmond couple allegedly beat 3-week-old daughter to death

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An autopsy showed that Aprhil Diane Berrrniece Matthews's death was caused by blunt force trauma to the chest and stomach with internal bleeding. She was buried in Richmond Memory Gardens.  (Facebook) An autopsy showed that Aprhil Diane Berrrniece Matthews's death was caused by blunt force trauma to the chest and stomach with internal bleeding. She was buried in Richmond Memory Gardens. (Facebook)
Authorities were called Aug. 18 to their home on Southview Drive after Aprhil stopped breathing. Authorities were called Aug. 18 to their home on Southview Drive after Aprhil stopped breathing.
Prosecutors charged Dennis J. Matthews, 24, and Rebecca Ann Palmer Matthews, 23, with felony child abuse after their daughter died inside her home. Prosecutors charged Dennis J. Matthews, 24, and Rebecca Ann Palmer Matthews, 23, with felony child abuse after their daughter died inside her home.
RICHMOND, MO (KCTV) -

A Richmond couple has been charged after allegedly beating their 3-week-old child to death.

Prosecutors charged Dennis J. Matthews, 24, and Rebecca Ann Palmer Matthews, 23, with felony child abuse after their daughter, Aprhil Diane Berrrniece Matthews, died inside her home.

Authorities were called Aug. 18 to their home on Southview Drive after Aprhil stopped breathing.

An autopsy showed that the infant's death was caused by blunt force trauma to the chest and stomach with internal bleeding. She also suffered various internal injuries to her body and had fractured ribs in various states of healing. Aprhil was buried in Richmond Memory Gardens.

After an extensive two-month investigation conducted by Richmond Police Department and the State Technical Assistance Team from the Missouri Department of Social Services, the couple was arrested. They are accused of inflicting "cruel and inhuman punishment" on their daughter.

Both remain in custody and in the Ray County Jail on a $500,000 cash-only bond.

Aprhil was born July 29. She was three weeks premature. She is survived by two sisters and two brothers.

Memorials can be made to the Christian Fellowship Ministries Church in Richmond.

According to a probable cause statement, Aprhil was put to bed by her mother at 10:30 p.m. Aug. 17 and was found dead in her crib at 9:51 a.m. the next morning. She had been dead for some time, Richmond police Chief Chad Burnine said Tuesday afternoon.

An autopsy revealed that her ribs had been broken at least twice and were in various states of healing when she died. This indicates she had been injured in her short life before the wounds that the medical examiner considered to have killed her.

Both parents denied causing any harm to their daughter when interviewed by authorities, and they did not know how she would have suffered in the internal injuries.

Court documents state that Dennis Matthews claimed the couple's 4-year-old child climbed into Aprhil's crib and fell on her. Dennis Matthews allegedly claimed the injuries were from the toddler squashing the baby.

The couple also said their 2-year-old child picked up Aprhil from her bassinet and dropped her, breaking her ribs, according to court documents. The couple initially didn't seek medical treatment, allegedly fearing they would lose custody of their other children.

According to court records, Rebecca Matthews took the baby in August to the doctor for a routine checkup but did not mention any injuries or breathing difficulties. The baby reportedly passed the checkup leading to Dennis Matthews to conclude, "We are in the clear," court records state.

If convicted of felony child abuse, the couple could face 10 years to life in prison.

Neighbors said the couple and their children lived in the home just a couple of months, saying they moved out shortly after Aprhil died.

Her godmother said Aprhil was a good baby who seldom cried despite being a preemie. In a Facebook post, she described the anger and rage she's been struggling with along with sadness and a multitude of tears.

"Struggling with questions that have no answers," she wrote. "I pray, speak scripture, sing to God, but subconsciously I battle. This is a new level of grief for me and it's not just me that is suffering. There are many struggling with the situation we have found ourselves in. Your continued prayers are appreciated."

Burnine knows some will wonder why charges weren't filed sooner, but he said the investigation took some time because of the nature of the case.

"It was a very extensive investigation. By the time we got the autopsy results back and got everyone's statements, we finally felt we had enough to charge the parents with the death of the child," he said.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved.

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