A Mother’s Instincts Save Her Daughter from the Monster She Hired
New parents Whitney and Chris Matney had no idea the horrors that they would face after hiring a woman who was meant to guard and care for their child- a woman they knew, no less. What Whitney found will not only shock you, it will horrify and change what you think about babysitters.
But a mother’s intuition rarely fails and that’s exactly how Whitney Matney was able to find the monster she’d allow into her home.
A New Start
Whitney and Chris Matney, who had been waiting on the birth of their baby girl, finally got to bring their bundle of joy home in 2011. The baby, who was named Raylee, was as beautiful and as healthy as could be and her parents were more than ecstatic to start their lives as a family in Springdale, Arkansas, together.
Things went great for the first few months, and the married couple adjusted to having a newborn with them. Unfortunately, Whitney would have to resume her schooling, where she majored in law, and be separated from her baby girl for more than a few hours each day.
Life Goes On
Chris, who was already back at work, knew that once his wife went back to school, that the two would have to hire a caregiver for their child while they were away. Whitney, who had a dream of becoming a lawyer from as long as she could remember, agreed with her husband.
So the two began searching for a responsible sitter, with experience to take care of Raylee. But Whitney and Chris had no idea what nightmare would soon take hold of their family, once they found one.
A Possible Candidate?
Whitney was the one who spearheaded the search and looked diligently through hundreds of options, trying to find the best match for her family. She took as many precautions as possible and eventually decided that maybe a familiar face would be the best choice. And so, she put out an ad on Facebook for the position.
Soon after, someone contacted her about it; it was a former high school classmate of hers, a woman by the name of Melissa Medema. Medema spoke of her interest in possibly taking care of Raylee and asked if she could meet the family. Whitney agreed and Medema, who already had a slight advantage, because she was a familiar face, was in the running.
The Screening Process Starts
Whitney continued to screen people and did her best to narrow down the field to people she thought would do a great job with her daughter. When it came to Melissa, she felt like she knew her well, based on her social media (Facebook) profile.
Whitney, being the mother that she was, even took it upon herself to get in touch with the reference that Melissa had provided her with. The former client gave Melissa a raving review and recommended that Whitney hire her. Pleased with what she has learned, Whitney took one last measure: a meeting that would determine whether Raylee, her daughter, liked Melissa.
The Initial Meeting
So, with her husband’s blessing, Whitney set up the date between her, her daughter and Melissa Medema, who she got reacquainted with on Facebook. The day came and Melissa met with Raylee-Whitney, allowed the two to meet and things went off without a hitch.
In fact, Raylee and Melissa had a wonderful time, which was a great sign in Whitney’s eyes. Seeing this, along with everything else she knew about Melissa, she saw no reason to be worried or even hesitate and she offered Melissa the job.
With the babysitter picked out, all Whitney had to do was prepare herself to go back to school. The mother was very excited because she had devoted most of the last few months taking care of her newborn. But she was also nervous about leaving her baby with someone else after doing the job herself for so long.
But Whitney dug her heels in and told herself that she could not prolong the inevitable. It also comforted her that she thought she had found a nanny who gelled with her daughter. So when Melissa arrived for her first day at work, the couple gave her their blessing and set about their day.
An Odd Occurrence
When Whitney and Chris came home that day, they arrived to see that everything was still in one piece and had realized that they might have been overly worried for no reason. All was well in the Matney household and Raylee looked her usual happy self. But looks can be deceiving and in this case, it was.
Later in the day, as they were getting ready to settle in for the night, Raylee began to act in a very unusual way. When Whitney would enter her room, she began to scream and cry-seemingly afraid that someone or anyone was coming towards her.
What’s Wrong with Raylee?
Whitney was completely confused and had no idea how to react to this sort of behavior. She began to think of all the possible reasons why this could be. She thought that maybe Raylee was coming down with some sort of bug or that she maybe had not gotten enough nap time the night before.
But as worried as she was, she assumed that it was just a one-off kind of thing. Never once did she even think that it had anything to do with how Melissa had interacted with the baby.
A Suspicious Mother
The more Whitney thought about it, however, the more she started to think that maybe Raylee’s behavior really did have something to do with Melissa. But what was it? She had no idea because she hadn’t witnessed a thing, and everything did seem okay when Melissa left.
Figuring that her daughter was still getting used to the sitter, she pushed the idea aside temporarily. Little did she know that those suspicions would come back roaring back and with a vengeance she never expected.
A Different Raylee
Whitney continued going to school as Chris continued to work and more time passed with Melissa as Raylee’s caregiver. Whitney began to notice that her baby was taking much longer naps- approximately three hours longer than she was accustomed to. Knowing that her baby was a lively child, she began to wonder why she was so tired as of late.
Whitney, being a first-time mother, was very vigilant of her child, so she knew what was characteristic of her and what wasn’t. She and Chris often noticed the littlest things about their baby girl, which is why they detected the changes in her so quickly. Knowing that they might be serious, Whitney thought to speak to a professional.
Checking All the Boxes
Just to make sure that everything was okay, Whitney decided to bring Raylee in for a physical exam and to ask a few questions about what could be wrong with her baby. She couldn’t tell on her own what seemed to be the issue, although she knew that something was wrong.
The physical happened without a problem and the doctor said that there wasn’t anything wrong with the baby, at least physically; she seemed to be in great health.
A Doctor’s Opinion
The doctor went on to say that there were no signs that Raylee was coming down with any kind of sickness, which Whitney thought could be the problem. Raylee didn’t show that she was in any kind of pain either, so Whitney shared some of her concerns.
She explained that she had recently gone back to school after staying home for months with the baby and that she and her husband had gotten a sitter to take over during the day. After the full picture was painted, the doctor concluded that Raylee may simply be experiencing a bit of separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is something that happens in toddlers and babies and usually begins at around six months old. It occurs when the child shows heightened signs of anxiety when one or both parents try to leave for any amount of time. It is a problem that can last until a child is well over two years of age.
While some children will never experience it, those who do fuss, cry and scream when their parents aren’t near them. It is a problem that has been known to affect a child’s sleep. And it seems as if it could’ve been what was wrong with Raylee.
The Signs Begin to Show
Whitney took the doctor’s advice to heart and decided that her daughter was just experiencing those symptoms, but soon after, Raylee’s behavior changed again and Whitney had no other option than to believe that Melissa was somehow involved.
Whitney would notice that whenever Melissa would arrive to begin her day, that her daughter would run behind either her own or her husband’s legs to hide from the sitter. Whitney began to suspect that her child may be afraid of her sitter. But why? What was happening that she couldn’t see?
Too Much To Ignore
Whitney let some more time pass and remained vigilant. She took in as much as she could have, including reactions Raylee would have or the way she would behave both when Melissa was there and when she wasn’t.
Whitney let a month pass as the red flags kept piling up. She finally decided that enough was enough and that she would, once and for all, get to the bottom of what was going on between her daughter and the sitter while she and her husband were out.
The Set Up
Whitney had had some time to think about the best way to go about doing this and she went with installing a nanny cam, which would provide the visual evidence she needed to determine what the problem was.
She went out and bought a seemingly—normal clock radio, which housed a camera inside. The lens, which was too small to make anything of unless looking closely, was at the side of the radio and Whitney positioned it in a way that she knew would record everything. Ready to find out the truth, she waited to leave for school the next morning.
The First and Last Day
The next morning, Melissa arrived, as planned and Whitney went to her classes, knowing that she’d find out either one of two things when she got home: that her daughter really had separation anxiety or that the nanny was in some way ill-treating her young daughter.
What the recordings would reveal to Whitney and Chris when they got home would shake them to their cores. She was utterly and completely horrified by what was captured on her secret nanny cam, less than 24 hours after it had been installed. It was the last day that Melissa Medema would ever look after little Raylee Matney.
A Change of Position
When Whitney arrived home and Melissa had left, she raced to the camera, only to find it in a different position. Melissa had turned the nanny cam away- somehow figuring out what it might have been. Instead of the camera facing the living room, which is how Whitney had left it, it had been swung around to face the wall.
Whitney grabbed the device anyway, hoping that it had somehow gotten her some answers. And she got a lot more than she ever bargained for as she finally witnessed what her daughter had been going through for all those months.
What They Saw
Melissa had been treating little Raylee as if she wasn’t even human. The first thing Whitney saw was that the sitter had left helpless Raylee in her baby jumper- the device that bounces up and down with the baby, kind of like a bungee- for TWO HOURS STRAIGHT.
She wasn’t given any food, anything to drink, no attention whatsoever, all while she was stuck in a bouncy seat for an entire 120 minutes. Was this really the same Melissa who had gotten some amazing reviews from her references? Whitney was mad, upset, shocked and almost speechless. But that was not the end of it.
The Physical Abuse
You’ll remember that Melissa had turned the nanny cam away, but before she did, it managed to record quite a bit. She had stepped right in front of the nanny cam, with Raylee in her arms and was recorded beating her violently.
The spanking was meant to make Raylee stop crying. But the little girl, who was not even a year yet continued to wail; her cries eventually elevating from pain to panic. But that wasn’t all.
When the hitting did nothing to make the child silent, Melissa tried an alternative method. She was seen grabbing the child and holding her at waist height. What she proceeded to do next could have killed the child she was charged with taking care off!
Melissa held onto Raylee and began to shake her in an extremely violent way! She moved the baby girl in circles and from side to side- shaking her all the while. Raylee, who was dizzied and disoriented by the movement, stopped crying like her monster of a babysitter wanted her to.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
Violent shaking is not harmless. There is a syndrome called Shaken Baby Syndrome which has a mortality rate as high as 38% in some places, although the median is between 20 and 25%. What this means is that children, who have been shaken in any kind of violent way are at risk of dying if they are shaken too vigorously.
The forceful shaking is enough to cause death in young children because their heads and necks are still very vulnerable. This syndrome could happen if the child is shaken by their legs, chest, arms or shoulders. It’s something that could have easily happened to Raylee based on what was seen on the tape.
But There’s More
But it doesn’t stop there, because death is not the only possible result of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Infants and children can also develop a variety of health issues by being handled in that way. Bleeding around the brain and eyes, hearing loss, seizures, paralysis, learning and developmental disabilities have all been associated with Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Realizing that this was a full-blown possibility, Whitney knew she had to get care for her young daughter immediately.
A Race to the Hospital
Worry was the primary emotion this young mother experienced after she watched the tape. So she took her daughter to the emergency room where the possibilities of Melissa’s ill-treatment had her fearing the absolute worst.
It was good news when the doctors got the results, however. It appeared that Raylee was quite the resilient little girl and that no damage was detected by the initial tests. While Whitney was thankful for the good news, another thought crept into her mind.
The Other Effects
Whitney was a smart woman who knew that what had happened to her child wasn’t merely physical. Although the doctors had cleared Riley, the worried mother’s thoughts soon turned to the potential psychological effects that this inhumane treatment could have on her child, despite her young age.
Unable to calm down, Whitney wondered if this would affect Raylee and in what way and if it was possible for her child to get over something like this- after all, she was already displaying behavioral changes at home. The first-time mother had no idea.
The next thing Whitney and Chris had to do was to report Melissa to the police. There was no way that Whitney would let this monster take care of any other child, let alone hers. So, she went down to the police station and made a report.
They told the officers of their suspicions and what prompted them in the first place. The final straw was the evidence that Whitney had recorded using her secret nanny cam. The police, ready to take action against this predator, agreed to ambush Melissa the next time she went to “work” at the Matney home.
Too Confident for Her Own Good
But there was something that could potentially ruin the plan to snag Melissa. The tapes revealed that she had looked directly into the lens of the nanny cam, and suspecting that she was being recorded, she turned it around- which is how Whitney found it when she went home that day.
There was a chance that Melissa might not have shown up for work because she knew what the cameras had found. But to everyone’s shock, she did- she showed up as if nothing had happened ready to possibly abuse the helpless child, all over again. But that’s not what happened.
Just Like Any Other Day
The shameless nanny turned up at the Matney household the next day. But she was in for a rude awakening when she found police waiting for her, as soon as she stepped one foot out of her car.
Right then and there, she was arrested. Whitney, who was watching the entire thing from inside her house, recorded how it went down with her camera, through the window. She knew at that moment that Melissa would get exactly what she deserved.
The Good and the Bad
After Melissa was taken in, one of the officers assigned to the case told Whitney that she was incredibly lucky to have seen that something was wrong early on. He reminded Whitney of the way things could have ended had she not been such a vigilant and attentive mother.
When she asked about the case, however, she was told that Melissa could only be charged with a Class D felony- the least serious in the grouping of felonies. Often called victimless crimes, they are not usually seen as being dangerous or violent.
From Bad to Worse
Whitney was informed that Melissa could only get this kind of charge because she had no police record. The felony she ended up with was “endangering the welfare of a minor.” It basically meant that Melissa would not really feel the extent of her actions.
When translated to a possible sentence, it meant that Melissa would only spend three months in jail and be placed on probation for a maximum of three years. The worst and most disturbing part? Her record would once again be spotless when her probation was over- in three years, it would seem like none of this had ever happened.
A Mother’s Determination
But Whitney was not to be denied. Furious that someone could get off so easily for such a heinous crime, this law student got to work. She knew that Melissa could be someone else’s nanny in another three years and she was not about to let that happen.
So Whitney did her research and was completely floored by what she found. She realized that there was no way which guaranteed that other families would be safe from Melissa after her probation period- so she immediately felt like it was her responsibility to do something about it.
Everyone Needed To Hear
Whitney’s first move was to make sure that everyone knew who and what Melissa was. She decided to make her story known and that’s exactly what she did. Whitney spoke to any and everybody who would listen and set her sights even higher.
So, the mother contacted the media and told them her story, hoping that someone would run it and that more people would know the kind of monster she and her family had dealt with.
But Whitney realized that she could go even further than the media. She had to try to get to the root of the problem to ensure that Melissa and people like her were never allowed around other people’s children.
Because after all, all Melissa would need to do is to wait until the three years were over. So she put that law degree of hers to the test.
A Spark for Change
This mother of one contacted people and got enough support to start campaigns in Arkansas. After getting awareness in her state, she thought that she could try to gain more support outside of it and that’s exactly what she did.
Whitney was so inspired by what was happening with her movement that she sent out a bill.
In an interview with ABC News, Whitney Matney revealed that “Arkansas will be the first state to have a registry if it passes. Everybody who’s been criminally convicted will be listed out there for everyone to see.”
It would be cause for lots of celebration for Whitney and people who shared her beliefs if the bill was, in fact, passed. It would mean that Melissa and people like her would never be able to be anyone’s nanny again, because the proof of her actions would remain on her record, permanently.
Unfortunately, Melissa refused to comment on the incident, despite being asked to, several times. No one but here will ever really know why she abused that poor little girl. Although her motive remains a secret, her record would not be if Whitney succeeded, something that almost everyone hoped for.
And that gave Whitney the comfort they needed that not only had they helped their daughter, but possibly other people’s sons and daughters.
But Was Raylee Okay?
Fortunately, Raylee got her smile back and grew up to be as happy and healthy as she was before Melissa. Her parents say that she seems to have gotten over the incident and they could not be more proud.
Raylee is just one of the few lucky children who was not permanently affected by the abuse she was subjected to for months during her childhood. Many predators who are meant to take care of children are still out there and it’s the responsibility of the parents to ensure that things like that don’t happen.
When Hiring Sitters…
It’s very easy to think that someone could be the right fit, but one can never really know everything about a person. People will always put their best foot forward during an interview, and when they’re with their employers, so it’s very hard to make a good call, because you may be seeing a side of the person that’s not real.
Even when a good call is made, events could happen in someone’s life that affects them to a point where they can’t function the way they should, at their jobs. It really is up to their employer or parents to remain vigilant, like Whitney did when it came to her daughter, Raylee.
Finding a sitter is a necessary evil for mothers and father who need to go out and make money. Unfortunately, we hear about and see some nightmarish nannies in the news and on social media all the time, some have even killed children. But most of us think that it could never happen to us.
The Matney family never thought that this would ever happen to them and yet, it did. At the end of the day, there was no real way for Whitney to know who or what she was allowed into her home. She simply chose to trust someone she had known for years.
Rules to Follow
And while you can never predict how someone will act around your child, there are ways of screening them that should allow you to get a great fit. They include talking to past clients or reading reviews, using reputable sites to find employees, and not using social media.
They also include installing cameras in the home- in public areas only and unbeknownst to the sitter, as Whitney did. Parents should also know their children’s habits and mannerisms- those will help determine whether something strange is going on. Whitney, who is an excellent mother, did most of these things which helped her save her daughter and find a predator in her own home.