DALLAS — A 3-year-old girl whose body was found in a culvert near her suburban Dallas home a little more than a year after she was adopted from an Indian orphanage died from “homicidal violence,” according to autopsy findings released Jan. 3.
Steven Kurtz with the Dallas County medical examiner’s office said Sherin Mathews was a victim of homicide but that he couldn’t provide any other details from the autopsy at this point. The Texas attorney general’s office must decide whether the full report can be released to the public, he said.
Police in Richardson have released their findings in Sherin’s October death to the Dallas County district attorney’s office, and a grand jury this month is expected to review charges filed against the girl’s Indian American adoptive parents, Wesley and Sini Mathews.
The couple is being held at the Dallas County jail: Wesley Mathews is held on a $1 million bond and faces a charge of felony injury to a child, while his wife has a bond of $250,000 on a charge of abandoning a child.
Mitch Nolte, the attorney for Sini Mathews, told WFAA-TV that he’s received a copy of the full autopsy report and that nothing in it implicates his client in the girl’s death.
An attorney for Wesley Mathews, Rafael De La Garza, did not immediately return a call for comment on the autopsy findings.
Wesley Mathews initially told police Sherin disappeared after he punished her by sending her out in the night to stand by a tree near the home.
He later told investigators Sherin had developmental disabilities and was malnourished. He described a special diet regimen in which she had to eat whenever she was awake in order to gain weight.
Mathews said he had been trying to get the girl to drink milk in the garage of their home, according to an arrest affidavit filed by Richardson police.
“Eventually the 3-year-old girl began to drink the milk. Wesley Mathews then physically assisted the 3-year-old girl in drinking the milk,” according to the affidavit.
Mathews told police that Sherin choked and coughed and eventually he felt no pulse and believed the child had died. Investigators wrote that he “then admitted to removing the body from the home.”
Sherin’s disappearance in October generated a broad search involving a number of law enforcement agencies. Her body was found in the culvert Oct. 22.
Richardson police Sgt. Kevin Perlich would not say if additional charges could be forthcoming in light of the autopsy results, explaining that decision would be left to the district attorney’s office. A spokeswoman for the office declined to comment.
The couple adopted Sherin in June 2016. Their 4-year-old biological daughter is staying with family in the Houston area.
India-West Staff Reporter adds:
Earlier India-West reports said that a district judge in Dallas County last month ruled that the Mathews' cannot have contact of any kind with their biological daughter (see India-West article here).
That ruling came just days after prosecutors revealed information about Sherin's treatment by her parents at a Nov. 29 hearing. At the hearing, a pediatrician certified in child abuse pediatrics said that Sherin was being abused for months before her death.
Community members have rallied to honor the memory of Sherin. The Restland Funeral Home held a Dec. 30 memorial service and had a bench ceremony for the girl.
The bench created in memory of the 3-year-old girl was recently unveiled in Dallas.
Moved by Sherin’s story, David Turnblad, a family service counselor at Restland Funeral Home, said he knew he had to do something to help with the bench dedication, according to a WFAA report.
Turnblad met a man named Gene through the Nextdoor app. Gene had the bench but needed a place to put it, it said.
The dedication to the toddler came in the form of a granite bench engraved with Sherin’s name and an epitaph at the funeral home.
The bench was unveiled at a portion of the cemetery dedicated to young children. The epitaph of Sherin reads: “A life that touches others goes on forever,” according to a Free Press Journal report
At the ceremony, organizers also put together a memorial video of Sherin, the report said.
Later, the members walked out to the bench and paid their tributes. Doves were released as a last tribute to Sherin. Stuffed toys were also collected to donate in Sherin’s honor, the report said.
In addition to the community honoring Sherin’s memory, the community members in Richardson honored the Richardson Police Department for its work on the Mathews case with a plaque.