A former foster care and adoptive mother accused of child abuse was sentenced on Wednesday, Oct. 4, to a life sentence, but will only have to serve around three years in prison, a prosecutor said.
After amending the charges, Deidre Matthews, 50, of Independence, Missouri, formerly of Jay pleaded no contest in Delaware County District Court to 12 counts which includes child abuse, child neglect and child endangerment.
She was originally charged in 2014 with 14 counts of child abuse, seven counts of child neglect, child endangerment, and enabling child abuse.
Most of Matthews’ life sentence was suspended except for four years and an additional year is knock off for time served in the county jail, said Nick Lelecas, assistant district attorney.
“She will have to serve 85 percent of the sentence,” Lelecas said.
Lelecas said Matthews will have to have a drug, alcohol and mental health assessment, stay away from the victims and once she completes her prison term, she will be probation which prohibits her from having custody of children or them living in her home.
Deidre and her former husband Jerry Matthews were recognized as Department of Human Services Adoptive Parents of the Year for northeast Oklahoma in 2006.
While married, the couple along with nine children, lived in an animal feces infested two-bedroom, two-bathroom mobile home in the rural Jay area.
The family had more than 50 animals, including three spider monkeys and 11 lemurs, court records show.
Some of the abuse outlined in civil and criminal court documents allege that under the care of Deidre Matthews, the oldest teen was forced to kill her pet kitten by bashing its head into a tree; handcuffing another child and placing her in a dog cage; forcing the children to stand outside or parade around the house naked; and keeping the children home from school to avoid detection of bruises, welts, and wounds.
Other allegations of abuse include beating the children, allowing pet monkeys to bite the two teen daughters and Deidre Matthews' refusing to seek medical treatment and withholding food and water for two days as punishment, according to court testimony.
Jerry Matthews pleaded no contest in July 2016 to two counts of child neglect and received a lifetime suspended sentence.
The pair and 19 current and former DHS employees with were named in a civil lawsuit filed in Delaware County District Court and United Stated District Court in Tulsa alleging 17 incidents were reported to DHS, from January 2004 to March 1, 2014 but were not investigated properly. That suit was filed on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2015.
There are also allegations that DHS workers concealed evidence of abuse and alerting Deidre Matthews when they would be making surprise visits, a state DHS violation.
The couple no longer has custody of the children, who at the time of Deidre Matthews' arrest were 17, 14, 10, 9, 8, 8, 7, 6 and 4, records show.