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Wesley Mathews charged with murder of daughter Sherin, faces death penalty

The Medical Examiner’s office ruled last week the toddler died of “homicidal violence.” Sherin was found dead in a culvert near her home on October 22 , two weeks after she was reported missing.

world Updated: Jan 13, 2018 22:50 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Sherin Mathews,Murder charges,Indian toddler missing
Wesley Mathews, father of Sherin Mathews, appears in court at the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Building in Dallas. (AP File Photo)

A Dallas county grand jury on Friday indicted Wesley Mathews, the Indian American father of Sherin Mathews, for capital murder in the death of the three-year-old girl which carries a death penalty on conviction.

Mathews was also charged with endangering the life of a child, abandoning a child and tampering with evidence three months after Sherin’s body was found in a culvert near their home in Richardson, Texas.

His wife Sini Mathews, who has been charged with abandoning a child, faces up to 20 years in prison. The couple and their biological child, a four-year-old daughter had gone for dinner leaving Sherin home alone the night before the child died on October 7, 2017.

“We can’t go into details, but based on that autopsy report, we were able to determine that we can seek capital murder for this case,” Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said at a news conference announcing the indictment.

“We do want to make certain that justice is done on the behalf of this little 3-year-old. We are going to be the voice for her,” Johnson said.

Sherin Mathews was adopted from an agency in Bihar. (AP File Photo)

The Medical Examiner’s office ruled last week the toddler died of “homicidal violence.” But prosecutors have not yet revealed what else they may know about how the little girl was killed.

“The evidence is still unfolding in this case. We don’t want anything to jeopardise this case. We think that we have a great case, we plan to pursue this case vigorously, and we don’t want anything to hamper it in any kind of way,” Johnson said.

Indian consul general Anupam Ray who was present at the conference, was confident that justice would be delivered.

“Wesley and Sini will face trial. The prosecutors have and will pursue this case zealously so that justice is done. India has not forgotten this little child. May she rest in peace,” Ray said. “We were not going to forget Sherin.”

A photograph of 3-year-old Sherin Mathews sits by a makeshift memorial in Richardson, Texas. (AP File Photo)

The Mathews who hail from Kerala, adopted Sherin from an orphanage in Bihar in 2016. The little girl was found dead by a search dog near the family’s home in Richardson on October 22, two weeks after she was reported missing by her family.

Wesley Mathews first told the police that she had gone missing from outside the house where he had made her stand as punishment for not finishing her milk. She wasn’t there when he went back for her, he had added.

He changed the story subsequently and told investigators the child died in his arms after he tried to force-feed her — “physically assisted (her) … in drinking the milk.”

“The 3-year-old girl began to choke,” the police had said in their report. “She was coughing and her breathing slowed. Eventually, Wesley Mathews no longer felt a pulse on the child and believed she had died.”

But instead of calling for medical help or police, Mathews is alleged to have put the child in the back of the family’s SUV along with a trash bag, drove a mile to a culvert and left the body there.

The family called the police four hours later.

Both the parents remain in custody and they are involved in another court case over the custody of their biological child who has been taken away by the state’s child protection services.

The court hearings have revealed a shocking pattern of neglect and possible abuse three-year-old Sherin underwent at the hands of her adoptive parents.

Dr. Suzanne Dakil, a child abuse pediatrician who treated Sherin, who had suffered severe after-effects of malnourishment, beginning in February 2017, told the court she was concerned about fractures suffered by the child and reported them to the authorities. The couple stopped visiting her shortly, and switched to their regular pediatrician.

Kelly Mitchell, an investigator with child protective services, told the court she had found Sini Mathews, “eerily calm” and unemotional when she went to their house to remove the couple’s biological daughter, who, she pointed out, did not cry at the time. She added she had also noted many pictures in the house of the biological daughter, but none of Sherin.

And police detective Jules Farmer deposed that Sini Mathews had told the police that Wesley had “a weird look on his face” when he had returned home on October 7 after removing the body. The couple had then cried and prayed for three hours around the kitchen table before calling the police.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Jan 13, 2018 07:56 IST