Sherin Mathews custody

Sini Mathews (right), the Indian American adoptive mother of special needs toddler Sherin Mathews who was found dead in a Richardson, Texas culvert, is shown being booked into Dallas County jail. In a custody hearing over their biological child, Wesley Mathews pleaded the 5th Amendment – the right to remain silent – when he was asked by a prosecutor whether he killed Sherin. (WFAA.com video screen grab)

At a hearing Nov. 29 to determine custodial rights for the remaining child of Sini and Wesley Mathews, who are charged with felony child endangerment in the death of Sherin Mathews, prosecutors revealed that the special needs toddler had previously suffered several broken bones.

A skeletal survey consisting of 23 x-rays, which was completed in February 2017 – nine months before Sherin went missing – showed fractures in her tibia and femur, both in different stages of healing, meaning there was more than one episode of violence and trauma, reported WFAA8 news.

Pediatrician Susan Dakil, who is certified in child abuse pediatrics, said on the witness stand that Sherin was hospitalized in February 2017 and also had an elbow fracture in September 2016. Dakil said the Indian American parents told her that the September injury was caused by Sherin’s older sister pushing her off the couch.

When Sherin was admitted last February for bilateral fractures, Sini Mathews told Dakil that the little girl had slipped on a slide and the mother grabbed her to prevent further injuries.

The pediatrician said Sherin was classified as a "failure to thrive" patient which means she was below the third percentile of the growth curve for children of the same age. Dakil testified that she filed a Child Protective Services report and called the CPS hotline. She said she tried but could not find another explanation for the broken bones.

Sini Mathews, who is a registered nurse, told physicians that Sherin suffered from a Vitamin D deficiency, leading to her broken bones. When asked to testify to that statement during the hearing, Sini pleaded the 5th Amendment, the right to remain silent.

Both parents are in custody in Dallas County Jail. Sini Mathews, who faces a two-year state prison sentence, is being held on $250,000 bond, although reports have said recently the bond has been reduced to $100,000. Wesley Mathews, who has been charged with felony child endangerment and faces life in prison, is being held on a $1 million bond.

The Mathews repeatedly invoked the 5th Amendment throughout the custody hearing, refusing to answer questions which might incriminate them in the criminal proceedings.

The most shocking moment of the hearing occurred as Wesley Mathews took the witness stand. Prosecutor Denise Hale asked Wesley Mathews whether he had killed Sherin. The man's civil attorney, David Kleckner, raised five fingers at his client.

"I plead the Fifth," Wesley Mathews replied, as reported by The Dallas Morning News.

Sherin Mathews, who was adopted from an orphanage in Nalanda, Bihar, went missing at about 3 a.m. Oct. 7 morning. Wesley Mathews waited to call police until 8 a.m. Sini Mathews’ alibi is that she was sleeping for the entire time when her daughter first went missing.

The toddler’s body was found three weeks later in a culvert near the family’s home. Wesley Mathews told police he had “physically assisted” his daughter to drink her milk that morning and did not call for help as she started choking. He admitted to removing the dead girl’s body from his home.

Police learned that the Mathews had gone out to dinner on Oct. 6 evening, leaving little Sherin at home alone in the kitchen for at least 90 minutes (see earlier story in India-West here).

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