Houston: The Indian-American foster father of Sherin Mathews, sentenced to life after pleading guilty to a lesser charge, told jurors that he was not ready to believe that the toddler was dead and thought that if her body was buried near their home, she might come back to him, much like Lazarus, resurrected in the Bible.
A 12-member Dallas County jury took a little more than three hours on Wednesday to reach its unanimous decision on a life sentence for Wesley Mathews, who pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of injury to a child in the death of his 3-year-old adopted daughter in October 2017.
Mathews, 39, pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge of injury to a child by omission in Sherin’s death. He was originally charged with capital murder by the authorities in the US state of Texas after police discovered Sherin’s highly decomposed body from a culvert near her home in Richardson after a massive search that lasted 15 days.
Mathews initially told police that Sherin went missing on October 7, 2017, after he put her outside their home at 3 am because she would not drink her milk. When he checked in on her 15 minutes later, Mathews said Sherin was missing. He later admitted she died when he “physically assisted” her in drinking the milk and got chocked.
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Sherin, born as Saraswati, was adopted by Mathews and his wife Sini Mathews from an orphanage in Bihar’s Nalanda district in 2016. While prosecutors asked the jury to hand down a life sentence, defence attorney Rafael De La Garza argued that Mathews was a good father who panicked when his daughter choked and did not call for help.
Later, Mathews testified in court that he was not ready to believe Sherin was dead. He said he believed if her body were near, she might come back to him, much like Lazarus resurrected as described in the Bible, Dallas-based WFAA channel quoted Mathews as saying. The resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany is one of the miracles performed by Jesus who raised his close friend from the dead, four days after he was buried.
During his time on the witness stand in a Dallas court, Mathews also addressed questions about why he did not immediately tell his wife, Sini, a registered nurse or police about what happened. He was also frequently asked about the lies he told authorities during the investigation.
Mathews admitted to putting Sherin’s body inside a bag and into the culvert. When shown the bag that Sherin was in, Mathews testified it was a “blue” bag rather than a trash one, which prosecutors continually called.
Dr Elizabeth Ventura, the forensic pathologist who performed Sherin’s autopsy in October 2017, testified on Tuesday that she could not determine how the toddler died as her body was too decomposed to get an official cause of death.
Mathews’ wife, Sini, was initially charged with child endangerment during the investigation, but those charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence. She was seen — her face stoic exiting the courtroom after Judge Amber Givens-Davis read the jury’s unanimous decision to jail her husband to life in prison, CBS News reported.
Mathews will be eligible for parole after 30 years’ imprisonment, US media reports said.