Back in 2011, Whitney and Chris welcomed their baby girl, Raylee. The new parents were ecstatic to bring their new daughter home and start their lives as a family of three. What happened soon after, they never saw coming.
Healthy, Baby Girl
Together Whitney and Chris Matney thought everything would be picture perfect when they brought home their newborn. However, once their baby was in the hands of a new nanny, things took a dark turn. Instead of her sweet nature, their baby was acting very strange, but no one understood why. Therefore, Whitney took it upon herself to uncover the truth. She installed a hidden camera. What she saw on the recording truly shocked her.
Now, with a beautiful new baby and everything settled, Whitney planned to finally pursue her dreams. The family resides in the quiet town of Springdale, Arkansas. This new mother would finish law school in Arkansas at last.
Things Didn’t Go As Planned
Though it would not be easy to leave her new baby in someone else’s hands, Whitney was determined to balance her dreams and family as a working mother. Unfortunately, what should have been a healthy and smooth transition turned into a living nightmare. However, things did not turn out as planned.
Anyone that has been on a search for a caregiver or nanny service, understands the careful process Whitney embarked on. She truly took every precaution to make sure her daughter would get the best care. She chose not to go through a nanny service. So, rather than a mysterious nanny service, she wanted to reach out to friends on Facebook. Thus, she felt keeping within a group of known people, she was going with the safest choice.
At last, she got a message from an old classmate from high school. The former classmate, Melissa Medema, said she would be happy to nanny for her and wanted to meet to discuss the job. Hearing back from Melissa delighted Whitney. Who better than an old classmate to watch her daughter? Of course, Whitney had a natural inclination towards Melissa over other candidates since she had known her before.
Trying to Be Safe
Of course, even if one went with a nanny service, there is no foolproof way to choosing the perfect nanny. Naturally, some make better first impressions than others, yet, could still be awful at the job. While some nannies have outstanding recommendations, they could have undergone recent events that caused them to be incompetent or even a potential threat in their job.
Actually, there is one way to cover some of your bases. Experts recommend taking precautionary steps like doing full checks on candidates. Just take childcare expert Susan Tokayer’s advice to ABC news, “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.”
Many have heard similar tales of awful nannies. Nannies that seduced spouses, stole from the house, hurt the children or even horrifically murdered. Once in a blue moon, a terrible nanny nightmare story breaks and circulates all over the news.
Of course, it’s easy to say not us. Parents always respond with horror to these tales, but never truly consider it happening to their family. Watching these nightmare stories on the news make them seem so foreign and distant. It seems preposterous that anyone could even bring his or herself to committing such violent crimes. Anyway, with all this in mind, how would Whitney feel confident in her nanny choice?
Taking The Steps
Well, she did the best she possibly could. Firstly, she chose a Facebook friend. Thus, she could view this person’s online profile. The next step she took was speaking with Melissa’s reference, who provided a wonderful recommendation. Lastly, Melissa would come over for a trial run with Raylee. During this meeting, Whitney remarked at how well the two seemed to get along. Therefore, Whitney trusted herself to hire Melissa.
For months, Whitney cared for her newborn. So when the big day came to return to law school, she felt a rush of anxiety. Of course, it felt wonderful to be pursuing those long lost dreams of finishing law school. However, she was sad to leave Raylee behind for the first time ever. To ease her anxiety, she reminded herself she did everything possible to find a suitable caregiver for Raylee while she wasn’t home. When nanny Melissa arrived, both Whitney and husband Chris left home and said goodbye to their baby girl.
After returning, Whitney and Chris did not sense anything was off. All seemed normal, and they felt their anxiety subside. Clearly, the nanny did her job because Raylee seemed fine and the house was in its usual state. Maybe things would work out.
Then, everything changed that night. It was in the evening that Raylee began acting very strangely. Raylee began hysterically crying once her mother came into her bedroom. It was as if just the idea of a person coming close petrified the baby.
Why The Sudden Change?
Watching her daughter react this way confused Whitney. Perhaps, Raylee was cranky from exhaustion or maybe she caught a cold. Of course, Whitney was alarmed but thought this may be a passing concern. Yet, there was a lurking suspicion that her daughter’s dramatic change in behavior could be linked to the sudden life change. Whitney rationalized, thinking that the baby needed to adjust to a stranger’s care and being away from her mom for hours at a time. Tragically, Whitney did not yet realize what this behavior was trying to alert her to.
Maybe Just A Phase
You probably have heard of separation anxiety. This happens when an infant feels overwhelming anxiety when his or her parent leaves them. Usually, separation anxiety occurs between the ages of six months and up to 10 or even as late as 18 months. Typical signs include the baby grabbing tightly to the parents, as well as screaming and crying in a panic as the parent leaves. Another symptom is also difficulty sleeping. Perhaps, this could explain Raylee’s unusual temperament.
Could It Just Be Separation Anxiety?
Sure, this syndrome could explain some of her behaviors. Then, something happened to drive Whitney away from the idea of routine separation anxiety. Raylee began to display odd symptoms that may be linked to Melissa. Now, Whitney could no longer make excuses and had to investigate further.
A major red flag alerted Whitney to possible troubling behavior. She noticed that when Melissa arrived, her daughter would cling to her parents and even try to hide behind their legs. At first, she considered maybe Melissa’s presence just made Raylee aware of her parents’ impending departure, but it could also mean Melissa frightened her. What was really going on here?
Not Taking Chances
Since it was about the well being of her child, Whitney was not prepared to take any chances. With all of the warning signs, she decided to take action. In her very own sting-styled operation, she set up a hidden nanny cam. She placed what looked like a radio clock in her living room. Inside of the clock was a tiny recording device. She felt prepared to capture any troubling behavior if it was occurring.
First Day With Camera
With that, she set it up, not knowing the first day the camera was running would be Melissa’s final day as their nanny. The camera caught abusive and clearly criminal behavior. Whitney was horrified and disgusted and in total shock.
What’s Going On?
When Whitney first returned home the day she had run the camera, she was shaking with anxiety. Shockingly, the clock radio with the camera which she had placed outwards facing the living room before leaving, was now completely turned around. It was facing the wall! Did her nanny somehow guess that they chose to secretly record her?
Seeing this, Whitney ran to her computer to retrieve any footage. That’s when her nightmares came true and she felt sick to her stomach to uncover all the abuse innocent, young Raylee had suffered all this time. Raylee had been abused regularly by Melissa, former classmate with amazing references, and Melissa was now caught on tape perpetrating these horrendous crimes.
Neglect & Suffering
What Whitney discovered was horrific. For one, the camcorder showed that Melissa left Raylee in her baby jumper alone for two long hours. Despite needing a drink or food, she was stuck in that jumper for hours while Melissa paid no mind. Oh, but that was only the beginning.
Displayed right in front of the camera, Melissa violently hit Raylee as she held her in an attempt to silence her cries. The baby continued to scream in fear and pain. At this, Melissa held her at waist level and began shaking the poor baby in circles and from side to side until she stopped crying.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
One huge concern for the Matney parents would be Shaken Baby Syndrome. Aggressive shaking at such a young age can lead to brain damage and even long term issues. Many babies have even died from this syndrome. Shaking an infant can lead to tears in their blood vessels, brain and nerves. Plus, if their brain slams into the skull, that alone can lead to bleeding and swelling. Symptoms from that include, sluggishness, breathing problems or seizures. Whitney was terrified that her child would be suffering from this considering the abuse she endured.
To The ER
Outraged and fearful, Whitney rushed Raylee to the emergency room. The doctors performed extensive exams on the infant. Finally, they told her mother than she did not sustain any lasting physical injuries. However, Whitney still could not pacify her daughter. Clearly, there was psychological harm, but how would her daughter move past this trauma?
Calling the Authorities
Although Raylee was okay right then, this horrible and criminal nanny was still on the loose. Thus, Whitney took action and reported everything to the police. After talking with authorities, they decided to ambush Melissa if she chose to show up at work again.
Suspicious Of Recording Device
The alarming part was that Melissa picked up the recording device and after staring into it, she turns it around. Maybe she knew that they were recording her. Perhaps, she only guessed it was a camera and wanted to take the precaution.
Besides taking actions to ensure her daughter’s health, Whitney felt a responsibility to others. She wanted to do everything she could to publicize who this nanny truly was to the public. Of course, the last thing Whitney would want was to hear that Melissa took an opportunity to hurt another young child. Thus, she decided to speak out on every channel available to her. Once she could spread the story through media channels, everyone would be warned.
Talking About The Issue
Yet, she still was worried this might not ensure everyone’s safety. Naturally, there would be some who may not hear the story despite wide coverage. Also the real concern here was that Melissa could secure another nanny position after being captured in the act. Therefore, there could be plenty of other child abusers working for families. This deeply troubled Whitney.
Using Her Degree
Whitney searched for a better resolution, in order to help others and not just deal with her case. Instead, she chose to put her brand new law degree into use! After campaigning and collecting supporters, she attempted to change things in her state of Arkansas and maybe even on a national scale. She was determined to get something done.
Was Justice Served?
Due to Raylee sustaining no physical injuries, Medema only was charged with a class D felony. That class D felony was endangering the welfare of a child. In case you did not know, that’s the lowest felony one can be charged with, and it can even be expunged from a person’s records. So, Melissa spent just 90 days in jail and had three years of probation. However, her record could potentially be expunged. Thus, future employers might never be aware of this horrific incident.
Motivated To Take Action
Whitney was overcome with emotions, hearing that this nanny may have a clean record in the near future. Whitney told 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.” Remember, there was no online registry of past child abusers, but there was an online registry of sex offenders. Thus, Whitney was inspired to take action, “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.”
So with that, she told ABC news the big plan, “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.” Of course, this bill would be a game changer. Not just Melissa, but many other people who abuse innocent children would be stopped from causing further harm.
What Would Come Of This?
Nowadays, Whitney is employed with Bickett and Trentham Law Partners firm in her home state of Arkansas. Ever since this incident, she’s been on a mission to prevent others from going through the same tragedy. This young mother campaigned to start an online registry for the public of all the child abusers in the USA. Would all her campaigning be a success?
Hard Work Pays Off
Turns out, her work paid off big time! As of 2017, Arkansas has its own Child Maltreatment Central Registry. In fact the state Department of Human Services is tasked with maintaining this database. In addition, other states including Michigan, Iowa and Indiana set up registries too. Now, the ‘sassy and always smiling’ Raylee can happily enjoy life as a toddler, and her mom can feel at peace as well. However, everyone wanted to know what the update was with the cruel nanny…
Although this story is heartbreaking, the reality is that it has happened time and time again. Sadly, it does not always end so happily. Luckily’s Whitney’s quick actions prevented further tragedy. Others are not so lucky. Whitney heard this first hand.
Even the police officer told Whitney, “I think if you hadn’t caught this when you did, you would’ve came home and had no baby anymore.” Hearing this gave Whitney the chills. She couldn’t even imagine the more tragic outcome. Actually, what happened after Melissa’s arrest further enraged the loving mother. Was justice being served?
While this story became international news, no one was hearing anything from the accused, Melissa. In fact, she did not cooperate with the media. For now, her motives remain a mystery to the public. Though one thing is for certain, she won’t even be a nanny again.
Leave Me Alone
Melissa Medema refused to speak with the press about the incident. She told them to just leave her alone. She served her time and when ABC News went to her house, she would not provide any comments. Later on, she contacted the network to say, “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
Wait, what happened to baby Raylee? Luckily, she grew into an adorable and healthy child. With that horrible event in the past, she has been able to move past her suffering at the hands of the monster nanny.
Happy And Healthy
Even her mother Whitney couldn’t help but glow when sharing the update on her daughter. She told an ABC reporter, “She’s great. She is energetic, sassy, always smiling.” Of course, later psychological issues could arise, but for now Raylee is doing wonderfully.
Whitney, now a lawyer, actually works side by side with Senator Jon Woods and Arkansas Representative Greg Leding to teach other parents about nanny cams and how important background checks are when searching for nannies. Whitney is dedicated to her cause, hoping other mothers will understand even when you think you know someone, it’s crucial to take precautionary steps.
How frightening is it to imagine your children being abused by someone who is supposed to nuture and care for them? Fortunately, Chris and Whitney Matney caught on before this nanny nightmare turned even darker. Yet, this is not how it turns out for everyone…
You Can Help Others
Although Raylee is safe and happy with her loving family, not all kids happen to be as lucky. There are many children out there who are being abused by trusted offenders. Even worse, these offenders’ may have identities being protected by the law. To aid this fight for justice and safety, you can join in on the campaign to make a difference.
Do Your Homework
Also, the main takeaway is that all parents must do their homework before hiring a babysitter or nanny. However, even criminal background checks, searches of social media accounts and checking sex offender registries do not always reveal the truth. This was the sad truth Whitney learned after doing what she thought was a thorough investigation. So maybe we should all invest in a nanny camera because you can never be too safe.