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Father pleads guilty in death of adoptive disabled child

June 27, 2019

Wesley Mathews, the Indian-American father accused of killing his three-year-old adopted daughter Sherin Mathews has pleaded guilty. Mathews has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge according to news reports. Sherin's body was found inside a ditch in Dallas, Texas, where the family lived.

Mathews, 39, pleaded guilty to injury to a child by omission even before the murder trial began at a court in Dallas. The lesser charge will carry a lighter sentence in all likelihood.

Mathews had been charged with capital murder of a person under the age of 10 years. Sherin, whom he and his wife had adopted, was a child with a disability. She was found dead in October 2017.

If convicted, Mathews faced life in prison without the any chance of parole. Now, that he has been charged with injury to a child by omission, Mathews could get probation or face prison and life with the possibility of parole after serving 30 years.

There is no clarity on whether this will take away the charge of tampering with a corpse.

Sherin's death attracted international attention. Mathews and his wife Sini adopted Sherin from an orphanage in Bihar in 2016. Sini, who is a registered nurse, was initially charged with child endangerment but the charges were later dropped for lack of evidence.

On the night that Sherin died, the family left her alone to go out for dinner. Later they reported her missing. The father initially claimed that he sent Sherin outside the house as punishment for not drinking milk. When he checked in on her 15 minutes later, he found her missing.

Two weeks later, when Sherin's body was found in a nearby ditch, Mathews changed his story and said he forced her to drink milk and that she choked and coughed. Gradually her breathing slowed.

During a custody hearing for the Mathews' biological daughter, a child abuse specialist said Sherin's body showed signs of abuse. She had many broken bones and injuries, in various stages of healing that could not have happened before she as adopted. Court records said, they "failed to provide adequate nutrition to Sherin Mathews from Sept. 1, 2016 until the time of her death".

Mathews' lawyer asked for a lighter sentence on the grounds that he had no previous criminal history and was not a danger to the public. The Mathews gave up parental rights to their biological child in 2018 and she now lives with her mother's relatives elsewhere.

Sherin's death attracted the attention of the Indian government and the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took keen interest in the case. India further tightened the adoption process after Sherin's tragic death.

A Facebook group called Love & Justice for Sherin 'Saraswati' Mathews was started after the incident by a few people.

We will continue to fight for justice for her and remember her forever. In many ways, people feel, we feel like we are her family. There was a huge outpouring.. nationwide and worldwide.- Shanna Poteet, Sherin's Facebook group

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