The foster father of three-year-old Sherin Mathews, who was murdered and dumped under a culvert in Texas in 2017, has pleaded guilty in the trial over her death on Monday. Sherin's disappearance and death in October 2017 had hit headlines across the world.
Sherin's adoptive father Wesley Mathews from Ernakulam in Kerala was due to start on Monday his trial for capital murder in Richardson town near Dallas.
However, Wesley pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of 'injury to a child by omission'. This lesser charge eliminates the prospect of Wesley receiving the mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole, if he were found guilty in a full trial. The lesser charge carries a sentence of anything ranging from probation to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The punishment phase of Wesley's trial will now proceed.
According to a report in Dallas News, Rafael De La Garza, Mathews' attorney, asked the jury for leniency in his client's punishment. He noted that Mathews doesn't have a prior criminal history and argued that he isn't a threat to the public.
Wesley and Sini, both from Kerala, adopted the girl from an orphanage in Bihar in June 2016. Sherin was reported to have development issues due to malnutrition. The child disappeared on October 7, 2017, and her foster father initially told the police that he had sent her out in the wee hours as punishment for not having milk.
On October 22, Sherin Mathews' body was found under a culvert in Richardson on a road about one kilometre from her home in suburban Dallas in the United States.
Wesley Mathews then admitted to the police that the child choked while he assisted her in drinking milk. He also said the family had gone out for dinner and left Sherin behind, a day before she died. Her body was found in a very decomposed state that made ascertaining the cause of death very difficult.
Wesley claimed Sini, a nurse, was asleep at the time. Sini was arrested in November 2017 and was released from jail two weeks ago after the child endangerment charges filed against her were dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Sini and Wesley lost custody of their biological daughter in 2018.
Dr Suzanne Dakil, a paediatrician and child abuse expert, had testified before a court earlier that three-year-old Sherin had a series of broken bones and injuries and that the pattern of injuries led her to believe that the kid was abused on separate occasions.
During the initial hearing for the trial on Monday, prosecutors showed video footage from the portable cameras the responding officers wore when arriving at the Mathews's home. The jury were told of the discrepancies in Wesley's story and the fact he was doing his laundry when Sherin went missing.
The prosecution also called therapists who treated Sherin, who said the Mathews' had missed appointments.
The Sherin Mathews case led to demands to change laws in both the US and India. In Texas, officials planned a 'Sherin's law' to punish parents and guardians who abandon minor children. In India, the government moved to tighten adoption procedures, requiring mandatory checks on adopted children.