Woman pleads guilty to conspiracy in death of stepdaughter

A Baton Rouge woman’s guilty plea Thursday in the 2006 asphyxiation death of her heavily-insured 2-year-old stepdaughter failed to provide the toddler’s mother with the answers she’s sought for nearly eight years.

The child’s father, Cedric Matamoros Sr., died in 2012 before prosecutors could bring him to trial on a first-degree murder charge in the killing of Malaysia Chanté Matamoros.

Shelna Jackson Matamoros declined a judge’s invitation Thursday to speak before he sentenced her on an amended charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Shantel Fountain, the girl’s mother, said it was difficult to sign off on Shelna Matamoros’ plea agreement.

“Hard decision, but I decided to allow God’s will to be done,” Fountain said outside state District Judge Chip Moore’s courtroom. “I had to come to the realization that I may never find out what happened.”

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Shelna Matamoros’ conspiracy plea fits what the state’s theory has always been: Cedric Matamoros, 33, killed his daughter to collect on insurance benefits from five different policies.

“This strangulation of Malaysia, by Cedric Matamoros, was a cold, calculated murder for profit,” the district attorney said.

“Following the murder, both Cedric and Shelna committed acts to cover up Cedric’s killing,” he added. “Evidence discovered suggested that Shelna called an insurance company inquiring as to coverage for the death of a stepchild prior to the murder. Shelna took no steps to prevent this murder.”

Chip Moore sentenced Matamoros, 38, under the terms of a plea agreement to 20 years in prison, giving her credit for the nearly three years she has been jailed since her 2011 indictment on a first-degree murder charge. The judge suspended the balance of Matamoros’ prison time and put her on active supervised probation for five years.

“I believe that this is the appropriate resolution,” Assistant District Attorney Steve Danielson told the judge.

“You’ve been given a huge chance,” the judge said to Matamoros. “Make the best of it.”

Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty against Cedric Matamoros, a long-term dialysis patient. The murder charge against him was dismissed in January 2013 following his December 2012 death.

Moore has said previously that Malaysia Matamoros was covered by five insurance policies totaling $185,000 at the time of her death, and Cedric and Shelna Matamoros were the beneficiaries. The child was pronounced dead Aug. 31, 2006. Two of the insurance policies totaling $110,000 were set to lapse Sept. 1, 2006.

After Cedric and Shelna Matamoros were indicted, Fountain said she always thought her daughter’s death had something to do with a lawsuit she filed against Cedric Matamoros for custody and child support.

The former couple was due in court five days after their daughter’s death.

Cedric Matamoros claimed someone broke into his unit at the Brandywine Condominiums on Darryl Drive the night of Aug. 30, 2006, and attacked his daughter in her bedroom.

He said he fired a 9 mm handgun at the intruder.

Shelna Matamoros was at the apartment that night but has not made a public statement about what happened.

“I don’t believe she knew anything before it happened,” said her attorney, Kyla Romanach, on Thursday. “She could have done a better job of shedding light on it after it happened.”

Romanach added Matamoros has sympathy for the child’s mother.

“She’s grieving the loss of the child as well,” Romanach said of Shelna Matamoros.

In an interview Aug. 31, 2006, Cedric Matamoros said if anyone thought he killed his child, they were wrong.

“I don’t have those kind of guts. I love my child,” he said. “I did what any father would do; I protected my family.”

Matamoros said he did not get a good look at the intruder. He said he could not tell if the person was a man or woman.

Police were called about 4 a.m. Aug. 30, 2006, to the Matamoros’ apartment in reference to gunshots being fired, police have said. Several gunshots had been fired inside the apartment, but no one was hit, police stated.

Prior to being arrested in Malaysia’s death, Cedric and Shelna Matamoros were convicted in a string of arsons and frauds. They were arrested in August 2008 and accused of, among other things, setting fire to a Robby Avenue apartment in May 2005 and two vehicles — a Ford Explorer and Ford Expedition — in January and July 2006.

Shelna Matamoros pleaded guilty in March 2010 to simple arson, insurance fraud and other charges and was released from prison a year later. Cedric Matamoros pleaded no contest in September 2010 to simple arson, insurance fraud and workers’ compensation fraud. He was released from prison the day before he was arrested in his daughter’s slaying.