Texas Child Protective Services does not have to provide services to Wesley and Sini Mathews that would help them reunite with their biological daughter, a judge ruled Tuesday.
The couple has not lost parental rights, but they will not receive help from the state to try and regain custody of their daughter.
The ruling by Judge Cheryl Lee Shannon opens the way for CPS to attempt to permanently take parental rights away from both parents.
Wesley and Sini Mathews are currently jailed in the case of their adoptive daughter, 3-year-old Sherin Mathews, whose body was found in a culvert after being reported missing in early October.
The couple returned to court Tuesday morning, once again seeking custody of their biological 3-year-old child who remains with family in Houston.
The couple's biological daughter, whose name has not been revealed by NBC 5, was placed into state custody shortly after her adopted sister, Sherin Mathews, disappeared Oct. 7. Her care was turned over to family members in late November after spending more than a month in foster care.
The body of Sherin Mathews was found on Oct. 22, inside a drainage culvert, a little over two weeks after she was reported missing by her adoptive father, Wesley Mathews. He is being held on $1 million bond after being charged with felony injury to a child in connection with Sherin's death. In affidavits, Wesley told police that he "physically assisted" his daughter drink milk and that she choked and died. Wesley said he then moved the girl's body.
Meanwhile, the mother of the girls, Sini Mathews, remains jailed, held on $100,000 bond for child endangerment/abandoning for allegedly leaving Sherin home alone while she, Wesley and their biological daughter went to dinner the night before Sherin was reported missing. Sherin was, according to a police statement, left home alone as punishment for not drinking her milk.
Both Wesley and Sini entered the courtroom Tuesday shackled at the waist. They remained present as a doctor, CPS investigator and a police detective offered testimony about the health of their daughters and the investigation into Sherin's disappearance.
First to the stand was Dr. Suzanne Dakil, a UT Southwestern child abuse pediatrician who treated Sherin beginning in February 2017 when Sherin was hospitalized and for low weight from February until July when the Mathews decided not to return to the clinic and instead return to their regular pediatrician which was closer to their Richardson home.
Dakil said Sherin showed weight gain during the time she was being treated, but that she surprisingly showed no weight gain from July into August, after Sherin stopped going to the clinic. Dakil added she was concerned about fractures in March 2017 and filed a report with Child Protective Services, though she was not part of any subsequent investigation. The doctor also said Sini Mathews told her she did not want to return to the clinic since the doctor treated mostly abused children.
Dakil told the court Tuesday that she did see the couple's biological daughter on one occasion, during a physical exam before she entered foster care, and did not see any sign of neglect or abuse.
The second person to testify Tuesday was CPS investigator Kelly Mitchell, who said Sini Mathews remained "eerily calm" and was "unemotional" when CPS showed up Oct. 9 to remove her biological daughter from the home. Mitchell said she noticed several photographs of the couple's biological daughter around the living room, but none of Sherin. Mitchell believed the couple had a different connection with Sherin than they had with their biological daughter.
Wesley's attorneys told reporters the Mathews did not have pictures of Sherin up in the home because she was disfigured due to medical conditions related to her eye, but insist the Mathews loved both girls equally.
The third person to take the stand Tuesday was Richardson police Detective Jules Farmer, a 20-year veteran of the department who previously said she believes Sini Mathews may be a flight risk.
Farmer told the court that Sini told police she woke up at about 5 a.m. on Oct. 7, the day Sherin disappeared, and found her husband sitting at the breakfast table with "a weird look on his face." Sini said she noticed Sherin was not in her crib and asked Wesley where she was.
Farmer testified that on Oct. 22 or 23 when police interviewed Wesley after finding Sherin's body, Wesley admitted to police that he became frustrated Sherin wouldn't or couldn't drink her milk on Oct 6, so he forced her to drink her milk and she choked while standing up. He said he was holding her when she died, stroking her because she was cold and he was trying to warm her up. He said he wrapped her in a blanket and drove her body to a culvert, put her inside -- though he intended to return to give her a proper burial. Wesley also told police he disposed of some items in a trash bag at a nearby shopping center.
Farmer said Wesley told police when he called to report his daughter missing he called the non-emergency number because he thought 911 service was down. Farmer said she did not recall emergency service being offline that day.
Farmer also testified that on at least two occasions Wesley admitted to police that he endangered Sherin.
When asked why the Mathews left the toddler home alone the night before she was reported missing, Wesley reportedly told police they left Sherin home alone not only because she would not drink milk, but also because she was not ready when the family was ready to leave and that the family 'needed a break.'
Farmer said in court that police found clothing believed to be Sherin's in a trash can at the family's home.
The clothes are being tested as they appeared to have stains.
Police are also testing Wesley's clothing including jean shorts that appeared to have some kind of stains on them, as well as some clothes in the family's washer/dryer.
The detective also told the court that while Sini talked with investigators on the morning of Oct. 7, she asked if she would still be able to make a baby shower that same day.
Farmer said Wesley found out about Sherin's medical condition during a trip to India shortly before her adoption in July 2016, but chose to follow through on the adoption anyway.
During the CPS hearing, the couple took the stand but invoked their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, on the request of their attorneys.
Another hearing is set for January in which a trial date for a final decision on the future of the Mathews' biological daughter could be set.
Meanwhile, the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office has yet to rule on Sherin Mathews’ official cause of death.
The Richardson Police Department and the FBI are continuing to investigate.
Check back on this page for updates.