Missouri mother charged with murder, accused of leaving 2 girls in hot vehicle July 4

A 30-year-old mother is facing murder charges after her two daughters were found dead last summer, allegedly from being left inside a hot vehicle in rural Clay County.

A Clay County grand jury on Tuesday indicted Jenna M. Boedecker on charges that her 2-year-old daughter Ireland Ribando and newborn Goodknight Ribando died from excessive heat because of criminally inadequate care after being left in the vehicle for hours on July 4.

Boedecker faces charges of second-degree murder for each of the children’s deaths, as well as multiple counts of first-degree child endangerment, domestic assault, armed criminal action and property damage.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office initially didn’t suspect foul play but later turned the case over to its investigative squad.

According to authorities, Boedecker told police she and her children slept in the vehicle after she lost the key to her home the 15600 block of Cameron Road in Clay County.

When she woke up the next morning, Boedecker told police, her daughters were unresponsive and not breathing.

She ran to a neighbor’s house and the neighbor called 911.

The neighbor helped Boedecker attempt to cool the lifeless children with water, wet rags and fans.

Paramedics from the Kearney Fire Protection District rushed to the scene, where they later pronounced the girls dead.

Hours before the girls were found dead, a social worker from the Missouri Children’s Division in Clay County went to the family’s home in response to a hotline call about the children’s welfare. The social worker told police he walked by the vehicle but did not notice the children inside.

The night before the children were found dead, Boedecker had an argument with her husband in which she accused him of being unfaithful, prosecutors alleged in previous court records.

The husband, who was identified as Joseph Ribando, told police that Boedecker threw a brick at his truck and rammed it with her Jeep Patriot.

Boedecker later told investigators that she and the children were locked out of the house when her husband left after the argument. Her Jeep had very little gas, she said.

Ribando told police he thought the children were inside the home when he left.

“My husband left between 3 and 4 a.m. to get cigarettes and gas,” Boedecker told police. “He was in the field with some girl and never came back. I had the babies in the car because I didn’t want them to hear us argue. I dozed off for just a second. When I woke up I saw them and ran them to the neighbors’.”

Boedecker told police she later found a key but hadn’t entered the home. However, an officer who responded to the scene reported the front door was ajar.

The officer reported the windows of the Patriot were up.

Before Tuesday’s murder indictment, Boedecker was charged in Clay County Circuit Court with third-degree domestic assault, armed criminal action and first-degree property damage for allegedly assaulting her husband the night before the children were found dead.

The grand jury indictment on Tuesday supersedes those previous criminal charges.

Boedecker remained in custody Tuesday with bond set at $500,000.

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.