One day, Whitney and Chris Matney woke up to their 5-year-old daughter talking to the wall in her bedroom. “No, I won’t do it…Stop!” the girl shouted.
The couple couldn’t help but imagine every possible scenario that would explain why she was talking to the wall at night.
At first, they ignored the signs and assumed that their daughter, Raylee, was just lonely. After all, being an only child at this age is difficult.
“I’m just being a crazy first-time mom,” Whitney reassured herself. But unfortunately, she was very much mistaken.
When Raylee turned two years old, her parents decided they needed a nanny. So they made a Facebook post, and one woman called their phone right away.
She introduced herself as Melissa Medema. She used to go to the same high school as Chris. “She responded, ‘I’m very interested. Do you mind if I meet with you?’” Chris told ABC News.
The couple picked Medema out of all the other candidates as they found some comfort in the fact that she was an acquaintance of theirs.
They ran a background check on her and called one of her references to ask about her experience. The Matneys had no reason to believe that Medema had ill intentions towards their family. But it wasn’t long before the couple started noticing changes in their daughter’s behavior.
Raylee started acting strange from the first day that Medema was hired as a nanny.
”The day Melissa started working there, I crossed the threshold into her bedroom, she just started screaming,” Whitney told ABC News. Their daughter also started talking to the walls at night, which scared her parents.
“And I just thought, you know, she’s tired, she’s getting sick.”
Unbeknownst to Raylee’s parents, something sinister was happening in their daughter’s room while they were at work.
Medema told the couple that their daughter slept for four hours straight when she was looking after her, but the Matneys knew that she was lying.
“She would sleep an hour, hour and a half; never four hours,” Whitney told ABC News. Was she giving her daughter sleeping pills?
Whitney feared that their nanny was giving Raylee sleeping pills to knock her out, but her husband thought she was just being paranoid.
However, they couldn’t help but notice how uneasy their daughter was around Medema. Also, for some reason, she was awake all night talking to herself when the rest of the household was sleeping. Something wasn’t right.
The couple decided to install hidden cameras around the house to hopefully get to the bottom of Raylee’s strange behavior. ”I put up this camera, thinking, maybe she’s leaving her in her room for a little too long,” Whitney told ABC News.
But when the couple returned home, they saw that all the cameras were facing the wall.
Fortunately for these worried parents, there was still some footage that the cameras had captured. As they were watching the video, they realized Medema had left their child in her room for over two hours.
The Matneys were left at a loss for words when they saw their nanny hitting and shaking their daughter repeatedly.
“There’s a level of crazy that exists in a mother that you don’t know is there,” Whitney told ABC News.
They called the police immediately, and their daughter was taken to the emergency room. But did Medema pay for what she had done?
Two days later, Medema was arrested for child abuse. However, Raylee’s parents are having a very difficult time moving on from this incident.
“It’s like a surreal feeling when it happens to you,” Chris told ABC News 20/20.
Fortunately, Raylee didn’t suffer any psychological injuries, and her nanny pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a minor. But since it was a class D felony, she only got 60 days in jail and three years of probation.
A week after her nanny was fired, the girl stopped talking to the walls. The doctors believe it was a coping mechanism from all the stress she endured. When Medema got out of prison, ABC News tracked her down outside her house. Did she share her side of the story?
Medema refused to make any comments and asked the reporters to leave her alone. The couple believes that she didn’t get what she deserved.
The worst of all, Medema had Arkansas Act 346 at her disposal, meaning she could get her record expunged after completing her probation.
After doing some research, the couple learned that Medema could pretty much become a nanny again, and the next family who hires her wouldn’t know about her criminal record.
“I’m trying to keep other people from being subjected to, well, Melissa, and other 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,” Whitney told ABC News. In 2015, she created a child abuse registry together with Arkansas lawmakers, Senator Jon Woods and Representative Greg Leding. The Child Maltreatment Registry ensured that offenders like Medema would never work with children again.