DALLAS (AP) – A jury sentenced a north Texas father on Wednesday to life in prison in the 2017 death of his three-year-old daughter, whom he claims choked on milk before he panicked and placed her body in a culvert.
Her body was found about two weeks later.
The Dallas County jury deliberated for more than three hours in the punishment phase of Wesley Mathews, 39, in the death of Sherin Mathews. He will be eligible for parole after 30 years’ imprisonment.
Mathews was charged with capital murder but pleaded guilty on Monday to a lesser charge of injury to a child by omission. Defence attorney Rafael De La Garza on Wednesday asked jurors to impose a lesser punishment because the child’s death was the result of inaction by her father.
The prosecution was unable to call any witness who ever saw Mathews mistreat his daughter, De La Garza said.
Prosecutors told jurors, however, that Mathews lied about how his daughter died, gave conflicting accounts of what transpired and showed no remorse over the death of his daughter, who was adopted from an orphanage in India.
The claim that Sherin choked on milk cannot be believed because a medical examiner testified that it’s unlikely a child can die in such a way, prosecutors said.
Mathews had told investigators that Sherin had developmental disabilities and was malnourished. He described a special diet regimen in which she had to often eat to gain weight. He testified that Sherin was startled late one night in October 2017 when he raised his voice as she was drinking milk for nourishment, causing her to choke on the drink.