Bradenton woman spared jail time for death of daughter

jdeleon@bradenton.comMarch 14, 2014 

MANATEE -- A woman charged with manslaughter in the death of her 6-month-old daughter has pleaded to a lesser charge of child neglect and will not serve any jail time.

Cherie Matthews, 31, was ordered to enter the First Step Mothers and Infants program because she is pregnant. She was also sentenced to two years of house arrest and three years probation.

On April 27, 2012, Matthews' boyfriend, the father of her daughter Izabella Whitson, came home to find the infant face down in a laundry basket of clothes. She was unresponsive, according to an arrest report.

Matthews allegedly was passed out on drugs at the time.

"The circumstances of this case are troubling to say the least," Judge John Lakin said. "Do not find yourself back in this situation again, you don't have that many opportunities in life to get a second chance."

Despite his reservations, however, Lakin accepted the plea agreement.

"These two lawyers have come to an agreement, given their skills, their abilities and they appear all the time in front of me, they must have good reasons for it," Lakin said. "I don't question their wisdom. I particularly don't care too much for this resolution, but I am not going to second-guess the recommendation by the state of Florida and the defense in this case."

Lakin warned Matthews that a violation of any of her conditions would result in her incarceration.

"I am not happy about the outcome here," Lakin said.

Matthew's was first arrested on a charge manslaughter as a result of child neglect on April 3, 2013, when the State Attorney's Office filed charges.

Intially. Matthews and her boyfriend told police that the baby was found unresponsive in her crib, according to the arrest report. Separate interviews and reanctments were not consistent and did no coincide with the markings found on the baby.

During a second reenactment, Matthews said the laundry basket was on the bed against the wall and the baby was lying against it. When she was once again told her story was inconsistent with the markings, she then told them what police believe really happened.

During the Izabella's short life, Child Protective Services became involved multiple times.

The first interaction with CPS was in October 2011 when the baby was born addicted to methadone.

Then again in January 2012, CPS responded when there were additional reports of drug abuse and neglect after Matthews tested positive for methadone, cocaine, benzodiazepines and marijuana.

Matthews signed a co-sleep plan prohibiting her from sleeping in the same bed with the baby each time.

Matthews has another child. In 2008 she surrendered her then 11-year-old daughter to the custody of the paternal grandmother, according to court records.

Previously Matthews has also had had two protective injunctions filed against her by the father of her baby, in August 2012 and April 2011. Both were dismissed.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.

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