Houston: The Indian-American foster father of Sherin Mathews, sentenced to life after pleading guilty to a lesser charge, told jurors that he was not ready to believe that the toddler was dead and thought that if her body was buried near their home, she might come back to him, much like Lazarus, resurrected in the Bible.
A 12-member Dallas County jury took a little more than three hours on Wednesday to reach its unanimous decision on a life sentence for Wesley Mathews, who pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of injury to a child in the death of his 3-year-old adopted daughter in October 2017.
Wesley Mathews, 39, pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge of injury to a child by omission in Sherin Mathews' death.
He was originally charged with capital murder by the authorities in the US state of Texas after police discovered Sherin Mathews' highly decomposed body from a culvert near her home in Richardson after a massive search that lasted 15 days.
Wesley Mathews initially told police that Sherin Mathews went missing on October 7, 2017, after he put her outside their home at 3 am because she would not drink her milk. When he checked in on her 15 minutes later, Wesley Mathews said Sherin was missing.
He later admitted she died from choking after he "physically assisted" her in drinking milk.
Sherin Mathews, born as Saraswati, was adopted by Wesley Mathews and his wife Sini Mathews from an orphanage in Bihar's Nalanda district in 2016.
While prosecutors asked the jury to hand down a life sentence, defence attorney Rafael De La Garza argued that Wesley Mathews was a good father who panicked when his daughter choked and did not call for help.
Later, Wesley Mathews testified in court that he was not ready to believe Sherin Mathews was dead. He said he believed if her body were near, she might come back to him, much like Lazarus resurrected as described in the Bible, Dallas-based WFAA channel quoted Wesley Mathews as saying.
The resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany is one of the miracles performed by Jesus who raised his close friend from the dead, four days after he was buried.
During his time on the witness stand in a Dallas court, Wesley Mathews also addressed questions about why he did not immediately tell his wife, Sini Mathews, a registered nurse or police about what happened. He was also frequently asked about the lies he told authorities during the investigation.
Wesley Mathews admitted to putting Sherin's body inside a bag and into the culvert.
When shown the bag that Sherin was in, Wesley Mathews testified it was a "blue" bag rather than a "trash" one, which prosecutors continually called.
Dr Elizabeth Ventura, the forensic pathologist who performed Sherin Mathews' autopsy in October 2017, testified on Tuesday that she could not determine how the toddler died as her body was too decomposed to get an official cause of death.
Wesley Mathews' wife, Sini, was initially charged with child endangerment during the investigation, but those charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence. She was seen -- her face stoic -- exiting the courtroom after Judge Amber Givens-Davis read the jury's unanimous decision to jail her husband to life in prison, CBS News reported.
Wesley Mathews will be eligible for parole after 30 years' imprisonment, US media reports said.