A physician says she found several bone fractures last March on Sherin Mathews, a 3-year-old girl adopted from India who was found dead in Richardson last month.
Dr. Suzanne Dakil testified that she suspected abuse and reported her concerns to Child Protective Services.
Dakil's testimony came Wednesday in a custody hearing in which the girl's adoptive parents, Wesley and Sini Mathews, were seeking to recover custody from the state of their biological child, who also is 4 years old and is currently living with family in the Houston area.
The couple, who face criminal charges arising from the Sherin's death, invoked their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions Wednesday.
The body of Sherin Mathews was found Oct. 26 in a culvert, more than two weeks after Wesley Mathews had reported her missing.
Wesley Mathews remains in custody on $1 million bond for felony injury to a child with intent to commit serious bodily injury related to the death of Sherin.
Sini Mathews is also in jail, held on $100,000 bond for child endangerment/abandoning for allegedly leaving Sherin home alone while she, her husband their other daughter went to dinner on Oct. 6, the night before Wesley reported Sherin missing.
The Richardson Police Department and the FBI continue to investigate the toddler's death.
The cause of death has not yet been determined by the medical examiner's office.
Both parents took the stand Wednesday and spoke out in a public setting for the first time since Sherin was reported missing on Oct. 7.
The couple was dressed in plain clothes, but both were shackled to their waist and did not speak to each other.
On the advice of their counsel, both Sini and Wesley Mathews pleaded the Fifth Amendment, so as to not incriminate themselves in future criminal court proceedings.
Wesley's attorney, David Kleckner, spent most of the time on his feet, stretching out his hand and showing five fingers, indicating to Wesley not to answer the questions leveled by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office.
Wesley is also represented by criminal defense attorney Rafael De La Garza.
Sini's attorney, Mitch Nolte, shook his head as his client was asked most questions by assistant district attorney Denise Hale.
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Sini is also represented by attorney Greg Gibbs.
The Mathews couple had contact with Child Protective Services from February 2017 through July 2017, according to testimony in court.
Dakil, a child abuse pediatrician who had treated Sherin, testified that she became involved with the Mathews family in February 2017 when Sherin was hospitalized and was then diagnosed with "failure to thrive," meaning she fell below the normal growth curve.
Dakil testified that Sherin had suffered an elbow fracture in September 2016 when Sherin's sister reportedly pushed her off the couch, according to the family at the time.
The doctor explained instances beginning in the fall of 2016 in which Sherin was treated for injuries, including fractures and broken bones.
In one instance, Dakil testified, Sini told her that Sherin received a fracture to her arm when Sherin was about to fall while going up the stairs and Sini grabbed her by the arm to prevent the fall.
However, the doctor testified that the injuries the girl sustained were not consistent with Sini's account.
Sini then reportedly explained to the doctor that Sherin had weak bones because she only had rice and coffee creamer to eat in her native India. Sherin was adopted from an orphanage in India in July 2016.
Dakil told the court that Sini said injuries to Sherin also happened during physical therapy she had been undergoing since arriving from India.
Dakil did not immediately conclude Sherin was being abused.
However, after tests were conducted, the doctor concluded the girl's injuries had been sustained in the U.S. — not in her native country.
Dakil also detailed a conversation she had with Sini when Dakil reported Sherin's injuries to CPS in March 2017.
Dakil said Sini responded to the development by telling Dakil she was wrong in her diagnosis, that she did not hurt Sherin and that having to meet with CPS was "ruining weekend plans."
Parents Reportedly Went to Dinner on the Night Sherin Died
Wesley Mathews reportedly told police the couple left Sherin home alone on Oct. 6 while they went to dinner with their other daughter, because Wesley was growing frustrated that Sherin was refusing to drink milk.
Both parents told police they returned home about 90 minutes later and that Sherin was alive and still in the kitchen where they left her.
The child was reported missing on Oct. 7 by Wesley, who said she disappeared while being punished. He later changed his story to say she choked on her milk and that he removed her body from the home.
Sherin Mathews's body was found in a culvert about two weeks after she was reported missing.
Hale directly asked Wesley Mathews on Wednesday if he killed Sherin, to which he again responded, "I plead the Fifth."
Hale asked Wesley if he took Sherin's body and drove to the culvert and placed her body inside with the intent to return and bury her body.
Wesley again responded, "I plead the Fifth."
Hale asked Wesley and Sini Mathews about the morning of Oct. 7, claiming that Sini walked into the kitchen where Wesley was sitting, and he then said, "Something terrible has happened."
Again, both pleaded the Fifth.
Wesley Mathews pleaded the Fifth when asked if he told police Sherin was known to drink eight ounces of whole milk on most days and was not known to vomit unless she was forced to eat.
It was revealed in court that it is believed that Sherin Mathews had a Vitamin D and iron deficiency and had an genetic problem with one of her eyes.
Nolte, Sini's criminal defense attorney, spoke with reporters following the hearing and described his client as being very affected by the testimony. Nolte also responded to criticism both parents have faced in the eyes of the public.
"She can't win either way," Nolte said. "If she acts stoic, then she's a cold woman. If she's crying hysterically, she's guilty. She can't win with certain people."
CPS claims the Mathews home was dangerous for both Sherin and the couple's surviving daughter.
Sini Mathews testified the girl is with her brother, his wife and her parents in the Houston area and she expects to be able to visit her daughter if she posts bond.
If Wesley Mathews posts bond, he is not allowed to have contact with his daughter or anyone in the family.
Asked why the couple should get their biological daughter back, attorney David Kleckner responded by saying, "Because it's their child. The facts need to come out in the courtroom. It's their child, they love their child."
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