What to Know
- Slain girl's adoptive father expected to testify in his own defense as he pleads guilty to lesser charges.
- Wesley Mathews faces between probation and life in prison; he could receive parole after 30 years.
- Charges were previously dropped against the girls' mother, Sini Mathews.
Wesley Mathews, 39, pleaded guilty to injury to a child by omission in the death of his 3-year-old special needs adoptive daughter, Sherin, in October 2017.
Mathews is not admitting to killing Sherin, rather to not seeking help for her as she was dying by either calling 911 or waking up his wife, who is a nurse.
Mathews will be taking the stand in his own defense and his attorney said he will admit to lies and mistakes he made with his daughter's care. Mathews' attorney said his client has accepted responsibility for what he's done — injury to a child by omission and not calling 911.
The plea gives Mathews the chance for a lighter sentence than if he'd been found guilty of capital murder, which carries an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole. Mathews could get probation or face prison and life with the possibility of parole after serving 30 years.
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Entering the guilty plea immediately moved Mathews’ trial into the punishment phase on Monday. At this time it is unclear if this guilty plea removes the additional charges of capital murder and tampering with a corpse.
Evidence of alleged abuse Sherin suffered at the hands of her father, acting alone or with the help of Sini, will be presented to the jury in the punishment phase, which began Tuesday.
The case began with Mathews reporting the disappearance of his daughter, who was found just over two weeks later inside a culvert that runs under East Spring Valley Road near South Bowser Road.
An autopsy and toxicology report was conducted and the medical examiner’s office listed Sherin’s death as a ‘homicide’ and the manner of death as ‘homicidal violence.' Prosecutors said Monday, however, that Sherin's body was so badly decomposed when found that they were unable to determine exactly what caused her death.
Mathews initially told Richardson police he instructed Sherin to stand alone by a tree, late at night on Oct. 6, after the toddler would not drink her milk and that when he returned she had vanished.
Mathews later told police he had woken Sherin up around midnight that evening, asked if she wanted to finish milk she had not finished drinking earlier and that the two went out to the kitchen and later the garage.
It is in the garage, Mathews alleged, where he began to "physically assist" Sherin in drinking the milk. The child began to choke and died in his arms.
Mathews reportedly told police he wrapped the girl's body in a blanket and placed her inside a culvert not far from the family’s home. He said he intended to return and give his daughter a proper burial.
Mathews reportedly did not immediately call 911, but rather waited several hours before calling the non-emergency police line on Saturday, Oct. 7, according to court records.
Richardson Missing Girl; Photos from the Investigation
Speech and physical therapists who cared for Sherin took the stand on Monday and testified she had been progressing but noted that the Mathews canceled some appointments.
Jurors also watched police body camera video of the morning Mathews called Richardson police to report Sherin vanished from a tree he had placed her in as punishment for not drinking milk.
His wife, Sini Mathews, was reportedly sleeping at the time of the incident. She had previously been charged with child endangerment for allegedly leaving the girl alone in the kitchen on the evening of Oct. 6, while she, Wesley and their biological daughter, went out to dinner. In March of this year, prosecutors dropped the child-abandonment charge.
The Mathews’ adopted Sherin from an orphanage in India in 2016. Sherin reportedly suffered several broken bones since coming to the U.S. and had failed to thrive, according to testimony provided by medical professionals.
The Mathews’ parental rights over their biological daughter were terminated in January 2018. Their daughter has since been formally adopted by Sini’s family in the Houston area.
Wesley Mathews remains in custody on $1 million bond.