In the Beginning
Whitney and Chris Matney were overjoyed to welcome their new baby girl, Raylee, into their home in 2011. Whitney was so excited to bring Raylee home, she spent all her time with her newborn enjoying every moment. That is, until Whitney decided it was time for her to finish her law degree.
The choice between staying home with her daughter and following her dream was a tough one, but Whitney knew she she could set an example for her daughter by going and finishing. So, in 2014, it was time to decide who was going to take care of Raylee.
After taking some time to search for the perfect caregiver for Raylee, Whitney finally decided to see what kind of response she would get and posted her requirements to Facebook. It didn’t take long before a former high school classmate, Melissa Medema, reached out and said she’d be interested.
Whitney, trying to be a diligent mother, scoured through Melissa’s Facebook and checked all references to see if she could find any red flags, but none were raised. Thinking this was the answer to her inquiry, Whitney hired Melissa to watch Raylee while she went back to school.
After the first few days, Chris and Whitney seemed to notice small changes with their baby girl. Anytime Whitney would enter Raylee’s room she would start crying. It was almost as if she was afraid someone else was coming.
Unable to pinpoint the cause of her daughter’s odd behavior, Whitney began to worry. Others told her it was just separation anxiety; a normal response for the first couple weeks when the parent leaves the house. However, Whitney felt as if there was more to the story.
Trying to Figure it All Out
Whitney decided it was time to take Raylee to the doctor. The doctor explained that separation anxiety is a typical stage for many toddlers and babies. It usually peaks around the 10-18-month age and decreases from there.
Even though this was some of the behavior Whitney was noticing from Raylee, she had a gut feeling—a mother’s intuition, if you will—that there was something more to the story.
After a month of being watched by Melissa, Raylee would run and cling to her parents whenever Melissa showed up. In the beginning this was to be expected, but after a month it was thought she’d be used to Melissa by now. Because this wasn’t the case, Whitney became even more suspicious.
Whitney decided to set up a nanny cam to see what was happening after she and her husband left the home. Neither parent was quite sure what they expected to uncover; however, it would leave both wondering how they could have let this happen.
Uncovering the Horror
Whitney and Chris were shocked as they watched the recording play out.
Neither of them could speak as they saw the nanny abuse their beautiful little girl. Melissa was even caught on camera at one point leaving poor Raylee crying in her jumper for two straight hours. Unfortunately, this wasn't even the worst of it.
What They Saw Then Made Their Blood Run Cold
At one point in the video, the nanny can be seen not only spanking a terrified baby; she began to shake Raylee until she stopped crying, and then Melissa finally put the baby down.
At this point, Whitney and Chris were horrified and scared for their daughter’s future health.
Involving the Authorities
After watching the video, Whitney knew she needed to do two things.
First, she needed to get Raylee to an emergency room to make sure that her baby girl was going to be ok. Second, she needed to call the police and stop Melissa from doing this to anyone else ever!
Justice for Raylee
After talking with the police and showing them the footage one of the police officers commented that they were lucky to have caught this so soon. If this had continued much longer, the potential for a bigger tragedy was far greater.
Whitney orchestrated the arrest to happen the next time Melissa showed up to work. As Melissa got out of the car, she was arrested by police and taken into the station. The police explained that because this was Melissa’s first offense, even if it was against a child, she would only get charged with a Class D Felony. Needless to say, this was not enough for Whitney.
Justice for All
Using the lessons from law school, she began to look at the bigger picture as it related to the country as a whole. She found was that they were not the first to have this happen to them.
She drafted a bill to introduce into Arkansas legislation that would require caretakers who are convicted for child abuse be registered on a public offender list to prevent this from happening to anyone else.
Although the bill has yet to be ratified by Arkansas legislation, the family has returned to normal life. Raylee is sadly the victim of this crime, but you wouldn’t know it now. She is happy and healthy.
Both of her parents are deeply saddened by the entire incident, but they are more overjoyed by the fact that Raylee doesn’t have any lasting health issues. Melissa’s side of the story has never been heard as she has repeatedly denied commenting on the issue.