Hunterdon couple are charged in death of adopted Russian son

Date: 2000-11-09

Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ)

Author: KATIE WANG; STAR-LEDGER STAFF

Robert and Brenda Leigh Matthey happily rang in the Year 2000 after adding three Russian brothers to their family.

Today, the Pittstown couple is sitting in a Hunterdon County jail cell, facing charges of endangerment and allegations of neglect and abuse in the death of 7-year-old Viktor Alexandria, who died Oct. 31.

Hunterdon County Prosecutor Stephen B. Rubin alleges the Mattheys failed to provide proper medical treatment to Viktor, who was suffering from hypothermia when he was rushed to Hunterdon Medical

Oct. 29 in cardiac arrest. Rubin would not elaborate on why Viktor was suffering from hypothermia.

Viktor was transferred to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where he died two days later. Medical personnel alerted police to numerous bruises and abrasions on Viktor's body, the prosecutor said.

"The matter is still under active investigation," Rubin said. He would not say if the couple has a history of abuse or if additional charges would be filed.

Police arrested Robert Matthey, 37, at his job in Bridgewater yesterday morning. They arrested Brenda Matthey, 35, at the family's home. They are being held on $25,000 bail.

The couple's remaining children - adopted twin 4-year-old Russian boys and four biological sons - have been placed in the custody of the state Division of Youth and Family Services.

Rubin said custodial care will be arranged for them.

The Mattheys adopted the brothers from Russia in December after learning about international adoptions at their church, the Flemington Assembly of God Church. Although they already had four sons, Robert Matthey told The Star-Ledger in January that he was convinced God wanted them to adopt.

"We kind of wanted the ones nobody wanted," he said in an interview.

Viktor was living in an orphanage in Svobodnyy in the Amur region. His twin brothers, Yevgeniy and Vladimir, were in another orphanage in Blagoveshchensk, near the northeastern corner of China.

The Mattheys flew to Moscow on Dec. 2, 1999, to adopt the twins, and decided to take Viktor home also.

The family homeschooled their children and attended church regularly, Pastor K.M. Szierer said. He said he has known the family for about four years.

"They were very caring parents, very helpful, very faithful," said Szierer, who was surprised to learn of the couple's arrest. "They were willing to do more than support the kids."

Szierer said Viktor appeared happy like any other child and he was still trying to get a grasp of English. The Mattheys do not speak Russian. Szierer recalled how proud Viktor was to show people that he could ride a bicycle.

He said he has been trying to reach the other children.

"It's very sad," Szierer said.

In June, the family moved from a rented farmhouse in Raritan Township where they lived for four years, to a house they purchased in Pittstown, according to Raritan residents.

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