Dallas, TX – The adoptive father of a three-year-old girl with special needs has been sentenced to life in prison in connection with the little girl’s death.
A jury handed down the unanimous decision on June 26, after hearing two days of testimony from 39-year-old Wesley Mathews, KTVT reported.
The body of three-year-old Sherin Mathews was found wrapped in a trash bag in a culvert near her family’s home approximately two weeks after Wesley reported her missing in October of 2017, FOX News reported at the time.
Her body was so decomposed, a full autopsy could not be conducted and the exact cause of her death remains a mystery, according to KTVT.
Sherin was adopted by the Mathews in June of 2016, after she had been abandoned in her native country of India.
Wesley initially told police that Sherin disappeared after he left her outside at 3 AM to punish her for not drinking her milk.
He reported her missing about five hours after he put her outside, in an area that he described as being populated by coyotes.
An Amber Alert was issued as police desperately searched for the missing toddler, and Wesley repeatedly insisted that Sherin was alive and needed to be found, WFAA reported.
After the little girl’s badly decomposed body was discovered hidden in the culvert, Wesley and his attorney showed up at the Richardson Police Department with a different story about what had happened to his daughter, according to WFAA.
He told police that he and his wife left Sherin home alone that night while they went out to dinner with their biological daughter, and that he put the little girl out in the garage when they got home to coerce her into drinking her milk.
He also threatened to leave her outside with the coyotes “to build the fear factor in her,” WFAA reported.
Wesley told police that after his daughter wouldn't drink her milk, he "physically assisted" her, according to WFAA.
He said she took a large gulp of milk, then began choking when he yelled at her.
"She was coughing and her breathing slowed. Eventually, Wesley Mathews no longer felt a pulse on the child and believed she had died," the arrest warrant said.
During his sentencing hearing, Wesley testified that Sherin had food aversions and was malnourished, so he wanted her to drink the milk so that Child Protective Services wouldn’t become involved with his family, WFAA reported.
Wesley told the jury that he didn’t bother to summon his wife, who is a registered nurse, because Sherin had already passed away and he didn’t want her to see the child’s body.
Instead, he wrapped Sherin’s body in a garbage bag and placed her in the back of his vehicle.
“I know I wanted to do something honorable, do something nice,” he said, explaining why he chose to conceal her in the garbage bag.
He claimed he “was not ready to give up on my child,” and that he believed that if he “prayed hard and strong enough,” Sherin would come back to life like the Biblical Lazarus.
Surveillance footage showed Wesley’s vehicle leaving his residence at 4:19 a.m., and returning approximately a half hour later.
Wesley said that he left the home to dispose of Sherin’s body in the culvert.
“I wanted it to be somewhere I could see by my house,” he told the jury.
He denied having “dumped” Sherin’s body, and claimed he put her in the culvert “to protect her body,” KTVT reported.
Wesley also took issue with Prosecutor Jason Fine referring to the bag he wrapped his daughter’s body in as a “trash bag,” according to KTVT.
Fine held up a blue plastic bag covered with recycling logos, which was identical to the bag Wesley previously admitted to having used.
“What do you put in this blue bag?” the prosecutor asked him during questioning.
Wesley refused to answer.
“What do you put in this blue bag generally, besides your daughter?” Fine demanded to know.
Wesley testified that he regrets having not done more to try to help his daughter, but that he was afraid that Child Protective Services would take away his four-year-old biological daughter if they learned what had happened, according to WFAA.
"It's just not fair that my heart still beats like my child's heart is not," Wesley testified. “If I had applied common sense, my child would be with me…I failed my Sherin, and I failed my family.”
“I truly am sorry,” he said, according to KTVT. “I don’t have words to express how sorry I am to these fine officers, these fine people who were full of love and concern for my baby Sherin and they devoted a lot of time and effort and I could have easily stopped that.”
But prosecutors said that there was evidence indicating Sherin was being abused long before her death, including multiple broken bones.
A doctor also testified that it was impossible for Sherin to have died while choking on milk, KTVT reported.
"The [medical examiner] told…you it’s medically impossible for a child of 3-years-old, who is standing up, to die. It's not possible,” prosecutor Sherre Thomas told the jury. “So, what does that mean to you as jurors? It means he is still a liar."
Wesley could have been sentenced to probation. He said would accept whatever sentence the jury deemed was appropriate.
“Please, please find it in your hearts to forgive me,” Wesley begged the jury.
Wesley pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of injury to a child by omission, and has now been sentenced to life in prison.
He could be paroled in just 30 years, KTVT reported.
His wife, Sini Mathews, was initially charged with child endangerment in connection with Sherin’s death, according to KTVT.
Those charges were later dismissed due to a lack of evidence.
"The investigation surrounding the death of Sherin Mathews has weighed heavily on the members of our Department and our community,” the Richardson Police Department said in a statement after the verdict. “We feel justice has been served with today’s verdict of life in prison given to Wesley Mathews by a jury of his peers.”
“We would like to thank the many law enforcement agencies and civilian partners for the resources and time spent on this case,” the department said. “We will always remember Sherin Mathews."