Linden woman accused in death of 2-year-old boy pleads not guilty
March 12, 2010, 6:32PM
Diana Matthews, a 31-year-old Linden woman, who is charged with murder in the death of a 2-year-old boy in her care, appeared today before Union County Superior Court Judge Joan Robinson Gross.
LINDEN -- Wiping her eyes with one of her hands, a Linden woman accused of murder in the death of a 2-year-old boy in her care pleaded not guilty at her first court appearance today.
Diana Matthews, 31, stood behind glass partition before Superior Court Judge Joan Robinson Gross in Elizabeth, dressed in a blue prison uniform. She spoke only to provide her address to the judge.
Her public defender, Peter Liguori, entered a not guilty plea on her behalf. Her bail remains set at $600,000.
After Matthews was arrested earlier this week, it came to light that she had been investigated by child welfare officials five times in the past decade, most recently in September.
Matthews is accused of killing Xavier Gentleman, who died on Feb. 25 of unspecified injuries. As her public defender left court today, he would not comment on the case, saying only, "We trust the criminal justice system, and justice will be done."
Authorities have not released a cause of death for the boy, saying only that information provided to police did not match medical evidence.
"Xavier was clearly the victim of abuse, and no child should have to suffer like that," Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow said in a statement.
Matthews, a friend of Xavier’s biological mother, was the child’s legal guardian and had raised him since he was a baby.
Matthews had also cared for two of Xavier’s siblings and three of her own children. All five children have since been placed in foster care. The state Department of Children and Families is also investigating Xavier’s death.
Matthews was investigated in September and four other times — from 2000 to 2006 — on allegations of neglect, abuse or drug use, authorities said. A case history report said the neglect and abuse claims were unfounded. It did not say whether drug use was confirmed, but noted services and supervision were provided.