DALLAS - The Richardson father on trial for the death of his 3-year-old adopted daughter took the stand and asked for forgiveness on Tuesday.
Wesley Mathews testified he tried to help Sherin Mathews by doing CPR when she choked, but it didn't work. His testimony was part of a dramatic day of the sentencing phase of his trial.
On Monday, Mathews pleaded guilty to injury of a child by omission to avoid a capital murder trial. He could still face up to life in prison, but an automatic life sentence without the chance of parole is off the table.
Mathews’ adoptive daughter, Sherin, was found dead near their home in October 2017 two weeks after she was reported missing. At the time of her disappearance, Mathews told police he left her outside because she wouldn’t drink her milk. When her body was found dumped in a drainage ditch, he changed his story and told police she died choking on milk while he was feeding her.
At times during testimony on Tuesday, he referred to Sherin as “my baby” and became emotional as he attempted to explain that his actions were driven by fear. He began by asking for forgiveness and saying how much he admires law enforcement. He then started to recall what happened that day in October 2017.
“Baby, I’d love to be with you. I just want to be with you. That’s all,” Mathews said. “I’m sorry for taking you and walking away. I’m just sorry.”
Mathews says he and his wife, Sini, were vigilant about properly feeding Sherin out of fear CPS would get involved with their family for a second time, so he says he took the girl to the garage in hopes of feeding her.
Mathews said he told Sherin to drink her milk but said it too aggressively, and she got startled and took a big gulp and started choking. He says he started rubbing her back then laid her down and started performing CPR.
“Why on God’s green earth would you not pick her up, run inside the house where your wife who is a nurse is asleep. Why didn’t you do that?” asked a prosecutor.
Wesley Mathews then tried to explain his decision-making process.
“Based on what I’ve learned about CPR, my instinct was to provide CPR immediately because I didn’t want any delays at all,” he said.
Mathews continued testifying that he didn’t call the authorities because he feared CPS would destroy his family, and he said he didn’t want his wife Sini to see their lifeless daughter. So he wrapped Sherin in a garbage bag and put in put her in the drainage culvert where she was later found.
The jury on Tuesday also watched Mathews’ interview with police shortly after he reported her missing. During the interview, he told detectives he tried looking for her but didn’t know what to do or tell his wife.
The detective seen in the video testified that he and Mathews discussed Sherin’s adoption during that interview. The detective said Mathews sounded like he’d been “duped” because he got a child with special needs.
The detective also asked Mathews why he turned off his location history on his cellphone while looking for Sherin and why search dogs couldn’t find her scent in the area that he said he left her.
In a follow-up interview two weeks later, Mathews can be heard changing his story. He told the detective he picked her up and started hitting her back after she began choking on her milk. “Next thing I know, her hands were cold,” Mathews said in the interview.
Jurors also saw photos of Sherin’s clothes that were found in a trash can and covered in vomit.
“I didn’t believe that my child had completely gone from this world. I believed that if I prayed hard and strong enough, God would bring my child back.”
Mathews' defense team did not bring up the ruling on Sherin's cause of death while questioning him. The Dallas County medical examiner has said the little girl died of "homicidal violence.” The medical examiner could not say what caused Sherin's death because the body was too badly decomposed after 16 days in the culvert.
The defense showed pictures and video to depict Mathews as a family man. Mathews also got emotional making another apology to police and the people who searched for her.
“I detest myself,” he said. “I detest myself for being untruthful to police officers.”
The jury will decide how much time in prison Wesley Mathews will serve.
Sini Mathews, a registered nurse, was charged with child abandonment, but that charge was later dropped. Mathews claims she was sleeping when Sherin choked to death.