SPRINGDALE, AR. –-- In 2012, while she was attending law school and while her husband worked a full time job,
Whitney Matney needed a babysitter.
Melissa Medema, a high school classmate, offered to watch Whitney's one year old daughter, Raylee.
Whitney says there were problems from the beginning.
“I took Raylee into her room and as I was crossing the doorway into her room, she started screaming and hanging onto me,” said Whitney.
Whitney passed it off as separation anxiety. However, the behavior continued.
“Every time that Melissa would ring the doorbell, Raylee would start screaming and crying and cling to us,” she said.
She started seeing other things that made her worry, too.
“She had one of the most horrific diaper rashes I have ever seen in my life. There were sores all over,” said Whitney.
In another instance, Whitney's mom relieved Melissa one day and said while changing Raylee's diaper “it was almost like she was having to scrape the feces off of her bottom because she had just been sitting in them for so long.”
Whitney decided it was time to order a hidden nanny cam. She found her sitter shaking her daughter.
“She walks into the living room, looks up at the TV and just starts violently shaking her from side to side. Then, she drops her from a standing position,” said Whitney. “I had to watch it two or three times before it actually registered that this was really happening.”
The nanny cam recorded several sequences before Melissa found it and turned it toward the wall. That was enough for Whitney.
“We grabbed Raylee and we were trying to hug her and I was apologizing to her because immediately I was just like, 'Oh my God. I can't believe I put her in this situation.'” said Whitney. “I called police and I told them that they needed to get there immediately.”
Melissa was arrested two days later. She is now in Benton County jail after pleading guilty to a Class D Felony. She will serve 88 days.
Class D Felony is the lowest level of felony. Stephanie McLemore prosecuted the case. She said she couldn't try Melissa for a more serious crime because Raylee wasn't hurt.
“We have to be able to prove an actual injury to fit one of the battery statutes and thankfully here she didn't have an actual injury,” said McLemore.
That didn't sit well with Whitney who wanted Melissa charged with attempted murder.
So, the Matney's are working with state legislators to better track abusers. Arkansas has a confidential child maltreatment registry, but Whitney said it required a lot of red tape, paperwork and money which made it hard to use.
State Representative Greg Leding and State Senator Jon Woods are working across the aisle, already passing Act 1503 which is the first steps for a registry.
“For somebody, some parents, say they're just interviewing somebody to be a nanny. It's not that easily accessible,” said State Representative Greg Leding.
“The legislation that we ultimately passed does not establish this registry, but it did pull together some groups to study the development and implementation of such a registry. They're going to report back in September 2014,” said Leding.
A mom, on a mission, using the state government for change.
“She's really not letting this be a negative chapter in their lives. They're using it to do something positive that will hopefully prevent other children from being abused and neglected,” said Leding.
One mother's hope that other families won't have to suffer through what she endured.
If you want to report abuse, call 911 or call 1-800-482-5964
KNWA did reach out to Melissa Medema. She declined our interview request.
KNWA did also reach out to Melissa's lawyer and our calls were not returned.