Woman throws 5-year-old into path of oncoming train, police say

Accused suffers from mental illness, family says

A New Jersey woman is accused of throwing a 5-year-old girl into the path of a moving train, an act that her family blamed on ongoing mental illness.

Autumn Matacchiera, 20, of Hainesport, was taken into custody Friday and hospitalized for a psychiatric evaluation, according to the Burlington City Police Department. She is charged with attempted murder.

Police said a Burlington City police officer was flagged down just after 8:30 p.m. Friday by a New Jersey Transit bus operator, who reported a woman, later identified as Matacchiera, acting suspicious in the area.

Responding backup officers spotted Matacchiera on the light rail platform at the Burlington Town Station, the police department said. As they approached to speak to her, Matacchiera grabbed the little girl and threw her onto the tracks as a train approached.

Matacchiera and the child were strangers to one another, police said.

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Officers jumped onto the tracks to stop the oncoming train as the boyfriend of the girl’s mother swept her off of the tracks. Matacchiera was subdued and arrested.

The girl was taken to a local hospital for treatment of a cut to her face and bruises.

Matacchiera's mother, Laura Matacchiera, told NJ.com on Sunday that her daughter has a history of mental illness spanning years, but that she's "never hurt anybody."

"She is not a criminal," Laura Matacchiera said. "She has mental health issues. It's an ongoing problem."

She told NJ.com that her daughter has been a patient at a number of mental health facilities, but has always been released against her family’s wishes.

One of those facilities was the Chamberlain International School in Massachusetts, which the Huffington Post reported last summer has been the subject of numerous complaints and lawsuits alleging neglect and abuse of its special needs students, many of whom suffer from psychological problems.

Laura Matacchiera praised the school last August for the help it had given her daughter, whom she described as being on the autism spectrum.

"If it wasn't for Chamberlain, I wouldn't know where my daughter would be," she told the Huffington Post.

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