A jury in Dallas County sentenced the father of a 3-year-old girl whose body was found in a culvert to life in prison, the Dallas district attorney announced on Wednesday.
Sherin Mathews‘ body was found in October 2017, two weeks after her adoptive father, Wesley Mathews, 39, reported her missing.
On Monday, Mathews pleaded guilty to a charge of intentionally and knowingly causing serious bodily injury to a child. On Tuesday, he took the stand himself and spoke about the circumstances of her death, which had remained a mystery since her disappearance.
“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,” lead prosecutor Jason Fine told jurors.
In 2017, Mathews originally said Sherin disappeared in the middle of the night, after he disciplined her outside their home for not drinking her milk.
“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.
Mathews later told police that Sherin choked to death while drinking her milk. But ultimately, two weeks later, her body was found in a bag in a culvert near the family home.
“I detest myself,” Mathews said Tuesday. “I detest myself for being untruthful to police officers.”
Sherin was adopted from an orphanage in Nalanda, a city in India’s eastern state of Bihar, in 2016. She had lived in the orphanage since she was an infant. At the time, she was named Saraswati.
Mathews testified that Sherin’s doctors told him that his daughter needed milk to gain weight, and he was afraid that doctors would contact Child Protective Services if her health didn’t improve.
“We’ve already been called out once by CPS and CPS investigated us for four months,” he said. “Doctor can say the parents are not feeding the child enough, so basically it falls on us.”
After over an hour of testimony on Tuesday, Mathews explained how he disposed of his daughter’s body.
“I refused to believe that my child had completely gone from this world,” Mathews said. “I believed that if I prayed hard and strong enough that God would bring my child back.”
When asked why he decided to take matters into his own hands and not seek help from authorities, he said he was in disbelief.
“I was being driven by fear. Fear of CPS, fear of how Sini is going to take this piece of news and fear of losing my house and family,” he said.
CNN has reached out to Matthews’ lawyer for comment.
Sini Mathews, Wesley’s wife, was arrested and charged with child endangerment in connection to Sherin’s death, but the charge was ultimately dropped due to lack of evidence, and she was released in March 2019.
“Our prayers continue to be with Sherin and we are glad that we were able to get justice for her,” the Dallas District Attorney’s Office said.