Wesley Mathews, 39, pleaded guilty on June 24 to a lesser charge of injury to a child by omission, on the same day that his trial for capital murder was scheduled to begin, The Dallas Morning News reported.
If Mathews had been found guilty of capital murder, he would have received an automatic life sentence without the chance for parole. By confessing to the lesser charge, Mathews is assured of eligibility for parole in 30 years, CBS DFW reported.
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot was cited by NBC DFW as saying that the charge of injury to a child by omission was likely the only provable case against the defendant.
“Based on the facts of the case, this was the only viable, prosecutable offense,” Creuzot said, NBC DFW reported. “The DAs Office presented a strong case with the evidence we had to make certain Mathews was sent to prison and to get justice for little Sherin.”
The sentencing of Mathews began Monday immediately after he entered a guilty plea in last October’s death of his adopted daughter, Sherin.
The jury of eight men and four women unanimously agreed to send Mathews to prison for life.
The toddler had been adopted from India and lived with Wesley and Sini Mathews, her adoptive parents, and their biological daughter.
Sherin was found dead in a suburban Dallas, Texas, culvert on Oct. 22.
On Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, Mathews answered questions about the night of Sherin’s death.
“I tried to gently shake Sherin so she would be out of that spell but nothing was working and in a matter—pretty soon her head started going different directions and her head came to a still,” Mathews said, CBS DFW reported. “I truly am sorry. I don’t have words to express how sorry I am to these fine officers, these fine people who were full of love and concern for my baby Sherin and they devoted a lot of time and effort and I could have easily stopped that.”
Mathews has given conflicting accounts about what exactly happened on the night the little girl vanished on Oct. 7.
His initial claim was that he asked her to go outside as a form of punishment for not drinking her milk.
Later, he changed his story to say that she choked on her milk and he “believed she had died.” Mathews claimed that he’d been trying to get the 3-year-old to drink the milk in the garage at 3 a.m. and “physically assisted” her in drinking the milk when she wouldn’t listen, WFAA reported, citing the arrest warrant.
“She was coughing and her breathing slowed,” the warrant said. “Eventually, Wesley Mathews no longer felt a pulse on the child and believed she had died.”
“Eventually the 3-year-old girl began to drink the milk,” it said, Fox8 reported. “Wesley Mathews then physically assisted the 3-year-old girl in drinking the milk. The 3-year-old girl began to choke.”
Mathews then admitted that he removed her body from his home.
But according to the BBC, prosecutor Sherre Thomas argued during Mathews’s trial that it was “impossible for a child who is three years old to stand up and choke to death.”
Sherin’s badly decomposed body was found in a bag in a culvert near the family home weeks after her disappearance.
“Mathews then led Richardson Police on a wild goose chase knowing where the child’s body was the entire time,” the Dallas District Attorney’s Office said in a statement, as cited by CNN.
— Frank Heinz IV (@frankheinziv) October 24, 2017
Mathews was initially arrested on charges of felony endangerment to a child and bailed out of jail. He was later re-arrested for felony injury to a child after telling officials at the Richardson Police Department the conflicting new details surrounding Sherin’s disappearance and death.
Neither Sini Mathews nor husband Wesley had any comment regarding their daughter Sherin’s death at a court hearing in Dallas. pic.twitter.com/xLjGfpWSel
— T.L. Langford (@tlangford) October 23, 2017
A key difficulty facing the prosecution was the advanced state of decomposition of Sherin’s body.
“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,” prosecutor Jason Fine told jurors during the trial Wednesday, NBC DFW reported.
Fine addressed Mathews directly during the trial: “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.”
“It means he killed that little girl. And when he killed her, he panicked,” Thomas said, via the BBC. “He covered his crime. He got away with that.”
Sherin was adopted from India after she was abandoned by her biological family, according to the Times of India. Reports say she was developmentally disabled and had difficulty communicating.
Mathews’s wife was charged with child abandonment but her case was dismissed earlier this year due to a lack of evidence.
The couple’s biological daughter was removed from their custody not long after the toddler was reported missing, according to BBC.