UPDATE: Judge Cheryl Lee Shannon ruled in favor of CPS on Tuesday afternoon, finding “aggravated circumstances.”
The next step would be a trial to sever Mathews parental rights to their biological daughter. There is no word on when that will happen.
The Mathews’ will not be allowed to visit their child.
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The adoptive father and mother of deceased 3-year-old Sherin Mathews were back in court on Tuesday morning. Wesley and Sini Mathews are trying to regain custody of their 4-year-old biological daughter. Both are still behind bars, and arrived to court in plain clothes, wearing handcuffs.
During a hearing last week, a doctor gave disturbing details concerning Sherin’s health before she died. That same doctor was back on the stand Tuesday, under cross-examination by the defense. A detective with the Richardson Police Department and a Texas Child Protective Services worker also testified at the hearing.
The child abuse specialist from Children’s Health testified that, back in February, Sherin was referred to a clinic for children at risk of abuse, because doctors had noticed that her weight was dropping. The doctor said that Sherin’s parents took her to the clinic for months but, in July, asked to take the girl back to her regular pediatrician because she was gaining weight.
When attorneys asked the doctor if the couple’s biological daughter, who was also evaluated, showed any problems or signs of weight loss, he said “no.” The doctor had previously testified that Sherin had a series of broken bones and injuries that were in various stages of healing, which could not have happened prior to her adoption.
The second person to take the stand on Tuesday was a worker with Texas Child Protective Services, who handles after-hours cases. The investigator testified that Ms. Mathews was “eerily calm” when workers removed the couple’s biological daughter from the home, and that no one there even mentioned Sherin, who at that time was still said to be missing.
At times, last week’s custody hearing seemed like a criminal court proceeding, with both parents repeatedly pleading the Fifth when asked about what happened to Sherin. The couple’s lawyers said that this was at their direction, and they will worry later about the message that it could send to the public and potential jurors.
Sherin’s adoptive parents have both been arrested. Mr. Mathews has been charged with injury to a child while Ms. Mathews is charged with endangering her child. Officials have not yet said exactly how Sherin died. During last week’s hearing, attorneys argued that Ms. Mathews is a good mother, and should not be stripped of her parental right to her surviving child.
The toddler was reported as missing before being found dead in a culvert near the family’s Richardson home. Police explained that Sherin’s parents left her home alone for more than an hour while they went to dinner with their biological daughter. That child was taken away from the couple and sent to stay with relatives when Sherin went missing in October.
Mr. Mathews originally told authorities that he was punishing Sherin at 3:00 a.m. for not drinking her milk. He ordered her to go into the family’s backyard and stand alone by a tree. When he returned about 15 minutes later, he said, the little girl was no longer there.
The 37-year-old father then changed his story, according to arrest affidavits, claiming that he “physically assisted” Sherin with drinking milk. The toddler started to choke and, after coughing for a bit, her breathing began to slow down. When he could no longer feel the girl’s pulse, Mr. Mathews “believed she had died” and removed Sherin’s body from the home.
A detective with the Richardson Police Department on Tuesday testified that Mr. Mathews put Sherin’s body in the back of his car with “a couple of bags of trash,” suggesting that he intended to dispose of the body before putting it in the culvert. He was intending to retrieve the body at some point, the detective said, to “give her a proper burial.”
Mr. Mathews is now in jail on a $1 million bond, while Ms. Mathews is expected to be released from jail soon. The 35-year-old mother had her bond reduced from $250,000 to $100,000 last week. If she is indeed released, she will be required to wear an electronic ankle monitor, as she is said to be a flight risk who could try to flee to her native country of India.