Mother going to jail for hitting daughter in eye
Shoe thrown in frustration but not to hit teenager, defense attorney says
The Jackson Sun
JACKSON, Tenn. - A Weststate mother who had 16 children removed from her home this summer will have to spend 20 days in jail for striking one teenage girl in the eye with a shoe, court officials said.
Frances Ellen Matthews of Kenton, Tenn., was sentenced Tuesday in Gibson County General Sessions Court to 11 months and 29 days in jail.
All of the sentence was suspended except for 20 days, Gibson County Court Clerk Janice Jones said.
Matthews also was sentenced to supervised probation and must report to jail at 8 a.m. Jan. 3 to begin serving her sentence, Jones said.
The state Department of Children's Services removed 16 children, many with severe physical and mental disabilities, from the home of Matthews and her husband, Dale, in August over child abuse and neglect accusations.
The children ranged in age from 3 to 17.
Frances Matthews has 10 days to appeal the decision, said her attorney, Jason Scott of Trenton, Tenn. He and his client are considering an appeal and ''will give it a day or two'' to make sure that's what they want to do, Scott said.
The couple still has a dependent neglect case pending in Gibson County Juvenile Court.
Hearings in that case are scheduled for Feb. 15 and 16, Gibson County Juvenile Court Clerk Lee Hayes said.
DCS determined that the Matthewses had adopted 12 of the 16 kids in their care. One was a girl for whom the Matthewses were providing respite, which involves keeping a child for a short period of time.
The legal status of the family's custody of the remaining three children was unclear.
Scott had hoped for a completely suspended sentence and was disappointed that Frances Matthews will have to spend time in jail, he said.
She has testified that she has never committed a crime, never been charged with anything and never had a speeding ticket, ''which is why I was disappointed,'' Scott said. ''She's got a good record.''
Scott wasn't surprised by the sentence, given the case and the media attention it received, he said.
He also said Frances Matthews was given jail time because of a dependent neglect investigation by the North Carolina child welfare authorities when she lived there.
The prosecution presented documents to the court from that case during Tuesday's 45-minute sentencing hearing, Scott said.
Frances Matthews was sentenced for an incident in December 2003 during which she admitted throwing a shoe, which struck the girl in her right eye.
She also was accused of slamming the girl against a clothes dryer, bruising the left side of the girl's face, according to warrants in General Sessions Court.
Scott has said Frances Matthews admitted to throwing the shoe out of frustration but she said she didn't mean to hit the child.
There was no testimony and no witnesses were presented at the November hearing about the dryer incident, and Matthews has denied it, Scott said.
The judge dismissed a charge at the November hearing involving a 13-year-old girl whom Frances Matthews was accused of whipping excessively with a yard stick, breaking the stick on the child.
She also was accused of beating the same girl with a wire coat hanger, causing bruises on the girl's leg, the warrant said.