The feeling of becoming the parents for the very first time is the most magical feeling on the planet. The child acts as a reason for the parents to start their life afresh and embark upon a beautiful journey with the latest addition to their family. Such was the case with a couple of Whitney and Chris Matney who gave birth to a beautiful daughter in the year 2011. But, months after living their life happily as a family of three that the couple witnessed something strange happening with their girl. What followed next was something that they had not even dared to imagine in their wildest dreams…
Healthy, Baby Girl
A couple of Whitney and Chris Matney living in Springdale, Arkansas felt as if they were on top of the world when they welcomed their newborn to their home. Unfortunately, their days of spending quality time with the new member of their family were short-lived. As, the baby girl who initially was very active and playful suddenly, started to behave in a very strange manner. The parents were left distraught finding no logical reason for their child’s abnormal behavior. But, Whitney was not going to succumb to this situation and took it upon herself to find out what was wrong with her daughter. The real reason completely shook the parents.
As already told before things finally seemed settled for the Matney family after their daughter’s birth. Now, Whitney felt rejuvenated and confident to pursue her childhood dream that of completing her law school in the quiet town of Springdale, Arkansas. But, who knew that fate had planned something sinister for this mother and her family who were looking on for a bright and happy future ahead.
Things Didn’t Go As Planned
The decision of being a working mother implied the fact that for some time of the day Whitney had to leave her newly born baby in someone else’s custody. Though, being an extremely tough decision to make it was necessary for her to find the right balance between dreams and family as a working mother which she was determined to achieve. This transition which is very common in families comes out to be a very fruitful and smooth one, but, in this case, it turned out to be the couple’s worst nightmare. Things had taken a dark and instant turn…
It is not difficult for even a person who has not experienced becoming a parent yet to understand the pain and stress that one has to go through while finding a child care for their baby. Whitney was going through the same phase. So, taking no chances when it came to her child’s safety, she decided to contact some known friends through Facebook rather than a suspicious nanny service for taking care of her child in her absence. Till now, you would have surely, started to get an idea of the weirdness of the events which happened next, even after such careful measures taken by Whitney.
Whitney could not thank the Almighty more when after her ardent efforts she finally got a response from a former classmate from high school. Melissa Medema, the classmate, seemed very happy and messaged Whitney asking her to set up a meeting where they both could discuss the job. Though there were other candidates for the job, Whitney was more inclined towards Melissa as she had known her before. But, were things panning out in the best interest of Whitney and her baby girl?
Trying to Be Safe
Whitney had taken the best decision logically. The reason for this is the uncertainty of finding the perfect nanny while consulting a nanny service. As some are good at posing a good impression of themselves, but, still lack the quality needed to do the job nicely. Apart from this recent events tend to hamper the competency of nannies having outstanding recommendations and can even make them a potential threat to their job. So, what actually went wrong?
According to experts, the best and basic precautionary step prior to handing over the responsibility of taking care of one’s child is to do a full check on candidates. Childcare expert Susan Tokayer’s in an interview with ABC news said,“You really can’t do too much to confirm that you’re hiring the right person. You need to do a diligent background check and digital digging.” The question that lingered was whether Whitney took this important step or not before keeping someone to look over her child?
The news of nannies committing strange and violent crimes while on their duty pops up once in a blue moon on the media. There are cases of nannies robbing the house, hurting the children and even committing murder.This is just to tell that families are aware of the potential threat that lingers around when dealing with child care specialists. So, where did Whitney and her husband made mistake?
Despite being aware of all the mishappenings around, there is a firm belief among the families that it would “not be us.” Though they narrate terrifying instances to others, for them the incidents are too foreign and distant. It seems bizarre to them or even thinking that someone would go so crazy so as to commit such violent crimes. So, even after being aware of all this, where was the confidence of Whitney on the nanny she had chosen coming from?
Taking The Steps
Apparently, she had made the best possible decision according to her capability and wisdom. Her primary step was of selecting a Facebook friend whose profile she could view online. Then she made contact with the person who had given Melissa’s reference. The person described Melissa as a wonderful person. In the end, she decided to call Melissa for a trial run with her daughter Raylee which went extremely smoothly. So these events led Whitney to firmly believe that it was Melissa whom she should hire. But, as we all know life sometimes can land people in some of the most puzzling and freakish situations.
It was going to be months since Whitney was taking care of her daughter that the big day came for her to return to law school. Whitney could feel the anxiety and rush of blood as the day was the first one when she was going to leave Raylee behind, not to mention there was a small corner in her heart where the joy of finally being able to finish the law school prevailed. She left the house with her husband Chris after Melissa’s arrival waving goodbye to their cute little daughter. While leaving Whitney decided to calm her nerves by reminding herself of the careful steps she had taken before hiring Melissa. Was, everything going to go as smoothly as Whitney had thought of?
The first thing that Whitney and Chris did after returning home was to check how their daughter was. They were relieved and equally happy to see everything normal in the house as they had left with their daughter playing around. The couple was happy to see things working out well between Raylee and the new nanny after seeing the usual state of the house. Their faith on the caretaker cemented more. But, were things really normal as it appeared to them?
It was the same night that everything turned topsy-turvy for the family. In the evening a few hours after the couple had come from their work, the sight of their daughter Raylee behaving strangely surprised them. She started crying incessantly once Whitney entered the bedroom where a few hours earlier she was playing as a normal child would. It became obvious to the mother that her daughter was getting scared of the idea of anyone coming close to her. What had happened?
Why The Sudden Change?
Whitney stood perplexed seeing her daughter’s abnormal behavior. Initially, Whitney thought that exhaustion or maybe her daughter catching a cold could be the possible reason for her behaving so. Though, Whitney was taken aback and worried after seeing her girl she did not take it that seriously as according to her the sudden life change and interaction with a stranger of her daughter was the cause for her behavior. She kept her cool and tried to think as logically as she could. Unfortunately, she was no longer going to realize that the abnormal behavior was an indication of something sinister…
Maybe Just A Phase
Whitney was truly right in the way she was comprehending the situation. As most of you might have heard of the term “separation anxiety.” It is used to describe the anxious behavior of infants when parents leave them. It is a phenomenon that is usually observed in the child whose age range between 6 months to 18 months. The most obvious signs include the baby holding on tight to their parents on seeing them along with screaming and crying on seeing the parents leaving them. Perhaps, this could explain the girl’s abnormal behavior.
Could It Just Be Separation Anxiety?
Yes, some of the symptoms matched with the behavior that Raylee was displaying. But, it was the peculiar activities of the girl which kind of linked to Melissa that tempted Whitney to sway from the idea of a syndrome and decided to make further investigations. Were the actions actually related to the presence of Melissa or was Whitney just overthinking? Find out ahead…
There was one particular indication that alerted Whitney instantly about her daughter’s troubling behavior. This was the sight of Raylee grabbing her parents tight and even trying to hide between their legs when Melissa arrived. Whitney couldn’t decide that whether it was the presence of Melissa which made Raylee aware of her parents’ departure and made her act so or was there a possibility that Melissa really frightened her daughter. What was really going on here?
Not Taking Chances
Whitney decided to not waste even a second before taking some step as it was about the well being of her daughter. She had seen enough warning signs and decided to spring into action. She did so by placing a concealed nanny cam. It looked like a radio clock but had a recording device inside it. She kept it in the living room and felt confident to catch any disturbing activity if any occurred. So what did the camera record?
First Day With Camera
After setting it up she followed her daily routine of leaving her daughter in the custody of Melissa and going to the law school. Well, after she returned and watched the recording it became obvious that the day was the last one for Melissa as their nanny. As camera had caught the extremely disturbing and criminal behavior of Melissa. Whitney was left shocked and disgusted to the core after seeing it. What had the camera revealed exactly?
What’s Going On?
After returning from work the first thing that Whitney did was to run the camera with her body full of anxiety. She was shocked to see the clock radio that had the camera fitted inside it facing completely opposite from how she had originally placed it. The clock was facing the wall! Was it possible that somehow Melissa had guessed that Whitney had placed a recorder there?
This was it, Whitney instantly ran towards her computer to see the footage. It was what she witnessed after this that made her feel disgusting and extremely sorry for all the abuse that her innocent, young daughter was facing all this time. The proof that Raylee was a subject of constant abuse by Melissa her former classmate who carried a good name was in front of her eyes. Melissa’s crime was now caught. What did Melissa do with Raylee?
Neglect & Suffering
Whitney was witnessing a sight that a mother wouldn’t even imagine in her wildest dreams. Initially, the recorder showed that Raylee was left alone by Melissa in her baby jumper for 2 long hours. During this whole time, Melissa paid no heed to Raylee’s cries for food and water who was stuck in the jumper. Well, this is just the beginning of the heinous crime Melissa committed…
What you see in the image is the actual footage of Melissa hitting Raylee violently in order to stop her from crying showing no sign of humanity. Realizing that this made the baby cry even more in fear and pain, Melissa resorted to even a more disgusting act. She started to shake the little baby vigorously in circles after holding her at waist height till Raylee stopped crying. This was the reason for Raylee behaving abnormally and possibly far more serious problems for which the parents were now going to consult a doctor. Did Raylee develop something far more serious than just getting scared and behaving strangely?
Shaken Baby Syndrome
After seeing the footage, the couple’s concern for their daughter increased exponentially. The thought of their baby having developed Shaken Baby Syndrome scared them. Actually, aggressive shaking that Raylee was subjected to often leads to babies like her develop serious mental issues. Shaking can tear a child’s blood vessels, brain, and nerves which in some cases have even led death. Since Raylee had also gone through something like this her mother was extremely worried about her health. Did Raylee really developed this syndrome or even worse?
To The ER
Wasting no time, a fearful and anxious Whitney took Raylee to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. Doctors began performing extensive tests on the baby girl whereas Whitney tried to control her emotions during this testing time. Luckily, after conducting the tests, the doctor told Whitney that her daughter did not sustain any lasting physical injuries which relieved her to a little extent. The fact that Whitney was not able to pacify her daughter still agonized her. It was obvious that Raylee had suffered psychological harm which was the reason for her behaving strangely still. So, what was the solution?
Calling the Authorities
Once, Whitney realized that her baby girl was okay and was not in an extremely bad state the thoughts of which were popping in her mind earlier, she decided to take the next important step. This was of reporting the whole episode to the police and getting a hold of Melissa who was still on the loose. The police decided to ambush the nanny if she came to Whitney’s house again.
Suspicious Of Recording Device
The most alarming aspect which the recorder revealed was that Melissa had intentionally turned the clock around after staring at it for a few minutes. Though, the fact that she understood that Whitney was recording her can’t be confirmed by anyone other than her, one thing’s for sure that she had guessed that something suspicious was there inside the clock and wanted to take the precaution.
Whitney was a responsible citizen and a caring mother. This gets proved by the fact that she decided to spread her story through the media channels in order to warn and aware everybody of the precautions to be taken before choosing a nanny for their child. She could not bear to hear the news of a nanny like Melissa to hurt another innocent child. These were the primary motive behind doing this and of course to see Melissa getting the punishment she deserved.
Talking About The Issue
Her main concern was of causing an awareness in the mids of each and every parent. This had become the reason for her worries too, as, the thought of someone missing out on listening to her story might make that particular family vulnerable. Since Melissa was still not captured, a constant fear of her finding other nanny jobs and committing the same atrocities lingered in Whitney’s mind. So what happened next?
Using Her Degree
Whitney managed to keep her cool and in no time came up with a wonderful solution to her problem. She did this by putting her new law degree to use. She started setting up campaigns and accumulating supporters starting from her state of Arkansas. She was even hopeful of turning her event into a national level one. The major question was that whether the police were able to capture Melissa or not?
Was Justice Served?
Luckily, Melissa got arrested but, got charged with only a class D felony, as, she had not inflicted any physical injury on Raylee. But, let me tell you that Class D felony is the lowest with which a person can be charged with and can even be removed from a person’s records. So was justice really served?
According to the rules of the law, Melissa just spent 90 days in jail and was sentenced to 3 years of probation. The scary part was that her previous record could be expunged probably. This could pose a risk to the future employers of never being aware of the horrific crimes Melissa committed in the past.
Motivated To Take Action
Whitney said to the reporters, “The fact that this monster…there’s no other way to describe her, you know…if this monster can walk around, watch other children and have no ramifications at the end of four years, it’s just beyond insane. I’m trying to keep other people from being subjected to people who have done this type of thing and had their record expunged. I think that their faces need to be out there, at least for parents.”
Revealing her ambitious plan she said to ABC,“We’re going to send out a bill. 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.”
Will This Bring A Change?
People and especially Whitney was hopeful of the bill leading to some big changes in the previously stated laws. This would ensure that no other innocent child like Melissa gets abused or even be harmed by demons like Melissa in the future.
What Would Come Of This?
Currently, working with Bickett and Trentham Law Partners firm in Arkansas, she has continued her mission of preventing any tragedy centered around children. She has even started an online public registry of all the child abusers in the nation. Were her attempts fruitful?
Hard Work Pays Off
Well, things have turned out well since then, as, the city of Arkansas has come up with its own Child Maltreatment Central Registry. The state Department of Human Services has been assigned the task of managing the database.
Across the Other States
Not only in Arkansas, the wave of setting up registries has spread in states like Michigan, Iowa, and Indiana. This will ensure that the ‘sassy and always smiling’ Raylee can enjoy her time with her parents without any fear of getting hurt by a stranger. But, the center of attention was the cruel nanny whose updates the people were eagerly waiting for.
This episode is not one its kind. Sadly, these terrifying incidents have been constantly witnessed with results far worse than this case. The whole credit goes to Whitney for taking instant action and yeah, being lucky to be able to catch Melissa red-handed and save her child from further abuse.
A police officer said to Whitney, “I think if you hadn’t caught this when you did, you would’ve come home and had no baby anymore.” After hearing this Whitney got scared and could not be more thankful to the Almighty. But, what had happened after Melissa arrest, was justice being served?
The incident had gained an international audience, but, no one was able to hear a word from Melissa.She was adamant in not at all cooperating with the media by not answering their questions. Though, being a mystery one thing was sure that she could not work as a nanny again.
Leave Me Alone
Melissa Medema former classmate of Whitney and the person accused of torturing little Raylee completely refused when it came to speaking to the press about the controversial case. She just told them to leave her alone. But, she had some more stern words to say to the media.
After serving her time, she did not comment a single word when ABC News visited her house. After sometime she contacted the news channel by her own saying, “This is Melissa Medema and you came to my residence this morning. First of all, I do not appreciate that. Do not come back to my residence, do not contact me.”
Back To Raylee
You might be dying to know about the cute little Raylee. Well, moving ahead with her past experiences she grew up into an even more beautiful and healthy child. It all seems to be a blessing for her to live a peaceful life with her parents without any signs left of the past traumatic experience.
Happy And Healthy
Whitney was ecstatic to see the progress of her daughter growing into an extremely cheerful and pretty one. She said to an ABC reporter, “She’s great. She is energetic, sassy, always smiling.” Though psychological issues can arise later, luckily, for now, Raylee is in perfect health.
Whitney is now a lawyer by profession and works with Senator Jon Woods and Arkansas Representative Greg Leding teaching families about the importance of doing background checks while employing anyone.
Dedicated To The Cause
The passing time and the series of events have not deterred her from the original mission she had embarked upon. She is hopeful that other mothers will take the matter seriously and not let matters lose by taking precautionary steps beforehand.
The news of a child being abused by someone like Melissa is enough to send chills down the spine of anyone hearing it. The most ironical part is the fact that nannies are meant to be the caretaker of the child. It was Chris and Whitney Matney’s luck and vigilance that stopped something even more bad from happening.
You Can Help Others
Raylee is very lucky to be safe and sound in the custody of her parents. As not all the kids experience this liberty after going through what Raylee suffered from at a small age. The worse part is that the identities of these cruel offenders are often protected by the law itself.
Make A Difference
In order to fight against the loopholes in the judiciary system and the violent offenders, one must join in on the campaign which is the initiative taken by Whitney to raise a voice against these serious issues.
Do Your Homework
The main conclusion and learning point from the whole episode is the fact that parents need to be totally aware of the possible dangers surrounding their child before hiring a babysitter or a nanny.
Not That Easy
But, as easy it is to advise people it is equally difficult to unravel the truth from the registries these sex offenders. As background checks and social media accounts, the search is quite deceptive. So, always go through a trusted source and take the help of an expert while seeking help.