DYFS takes couple's six children from relative; Mother and father charged in boy's death

Date: 2001-02-16

Author: MATTHEW REILLY; STAR-LEDGER STAFF

Article Text:

The six children of a Hunterdon County couple charged in the death of their adopted 7-year-old Russian son have been removed from the custody of their paternal grandmother and placed with members of the parents' church.

The state Division of Youth and Family Services has placed the children, ages 5 to 16, with members of the Flemington Assembly of God Church, where their parents, Robert and Brenda Matthey, are members, according to several sources familiar with the case.

No reason was given for removing the children from the care of their paternal grandmother, Phyllis Matthey, but sources said the move was made within the past week.

None of the parties involved with the care of the children, including DYFS, church officials and the grandmother, would comment, noting a gag order imposed by a family court judge.

Matthey, 37, and his wife, 35, are charged with endangering the welfare of a child and tampering with witnesses in the Oct. 31 death of their adopted son, Viktor.

The youngster was brought to Hunterdon Medical Center on Oct. 29 suffering from hypothermia, with a body temperature of 83 degrees. He died two days later at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

Medical personnel, who noticed that Viktor was covered with bruises and abrasions, called the police and DYFS. An autopsy found the child had 40 abrasions, cuts and bruises, three fractured bones in his right hand and an older fracture that had healed without treatment.

The death has been ruled a homicide by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office, although the Mattheys are only charged with endangerment and witness tampering.

The case remains under investigation.

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