Wesley Mathews, the Indian-American foster father of 3-year-old Sherin Mathews, was sentenced to life in prison by a Dallas judge on Wednesday for the tragic death of the Indian toddler in 2017.
Mathews, 39, had pleaded guilty on Monday to a lesser charge of injury to a child over Sherin’s death. He was originally charged with murder by Texan authorities after they discovered Sherin’s body in a culvert near her home.
Mathews, dressed in a light grey suit, stared ahead and did not look at the jurors as Judge Amber Givens-Davis sentenced him to life in prison.
The 12-member jury deliberated on Wednesday afternoon for about three hours before coming to a unanimous decision to give Mathews a sentence of life imprisonment. He will be eligible for parole after 30 years, US media reports said.
“Mr Matthews is obviously saddened by the verdict,” said his defence attorney Rafael De La Garza. “Anybody would be, but he knows the jury, he respects the jury’s decision and he’s going to weigh out his options.”
Prosecutors argued that Mathews, hailing from Kerala, killed Sherin in October 2017. She was adopted by Mathews and his wife Sini Mathews from an orphanage in Bihar in 2016.
Mathews claimed she accidentally choked to death while drinking milk.
He initially told the police that Sherin went missing on October 7, 2017, after he put her outside their home at 3am in Richardson, Texas, 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 choked. Sherin’s badly decomposed body was found 15 days later in a culvert by a cadaver dog.
Reacting to the sentencing, Richardson Police tweeted: “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 law enforcement agencies and civilian partners for the resources and time spent on this case. We will always remember Sherin Mathews,” the police said.
Prosecutor Sherre Thomas argued that Mathews’ testimony was just another lie. She said testimony and medical records show that it was “medically impossible for a child who is 3 years old to stand up and choke to death” as Mathews has claimed.
“It means he’s still a liar. It means he killed that little girl. And when he killed her, he panicked,” Thomas argued, according to a Richardson TV channel.
She said Mathews also took the time to clean himself and turned off the location tracker on his phone to try to hide what he had done.
“There’s nothing left of her, her teeth had fallen out,” Thomas said. “He covered his crime. He got away with that.”
Speaking directly to Mathews, prosecutor Jason Fine said, “You told investigators Sherin’s death was a mistake but by your own words, you caused the death of your daughter and put her lifeless body in a trash bag and disposed of her. I don’t call that a mistake, I call it murder.”
“Sherin’s little body was so badly decomposed, due to the actions of this defendant, the medical examiner could not determine an official cause of death which could have dramatically changed the way we were able to prosecute this case,” Fine told jurors.
While prosecutors asked the jury to hand down a life sentence, defence attorney De La Garza argued that Mathews was a good father who panicked when his daughter choked and did not call for help. He argued that prosecutors could not prove that Mathews killed his child.