Wesley Mathews murder

Wesley Mathews, the Indian American adoptive father of three-year-old Sherin Mathews, charged with capital murder and facing the death penalty, may have used a weapon to kill his special needs daughter, who was adopted from an Indian orphanage. (screen grab of CBS News video)

Indian American Wesley Mathews, who is facing the death penalty for killing his adopted three-year-old daughter Sherin Mathews, used a deadly weapon to commit the crime, according to his Jan. 12 indictment.

Mathews’ indictment was found by India-West on the Dallas County, Texas court Web site. The brief indictment notes the findings of a Grand Jury, which state: “During the commission of the offense, defendant did use a deadly weapon, the exact nature and description of which is not known to the Grand Jury.”

The indictment also states that Mathews “did intentionally and knowingly cause the death of Sherin Mathews” on or around Oct. 7, 2017, in a manner and means unknown to the Grand Jury.

On Jan. 12, Mathews was charged with capital murder, a first degree felony, by the Dallas County District Attorney’s office. The punishment for first degree murder in Texas ranges from a life sentence to the death penalty.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said in a press release announcing the charges that her office has not yet made a determination as to whether it will seek the death penalty.

Texas leads the nation for the number of deaths by execution: 474 since 1976, according to data from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Dallas County alone has had 57 executions.

Mathews is the second Indian American to face the death penalty. Pennsylvania’s Raghunandan Yandamuri – convicted of killing a grandmother and her 10-month old grand-daughter – is scheduled to be executed Feb. 23.

The Grand Jury also indicted Mathews on one count of injury to a child, also a first-degree felony, with a sentence ranging from five years to 99 years in state prison, along with a $10,000 fine.

Mathews was also charged with two second degree felonies, including abandoning a child and tampering with evidence. Each charge carries a sentence of two to 20 years in prison.

Sini Mathews, Sherin’s mother, was charged with one count of abandoning a child, a second-degree felony carrying a sentence of two to 20 years. Her attorney Mich Nolte told reporters – after Johnson read the charges at a press briefing – that there was nothing in the indictment to state that Sini Mathews was involved in her daughter’s murder.

Sini Mathews received the abandonment charge because – according to police reports – she and Wesley and their biological daughter went out to dinner the night before Sherin went missing, leaving the little girl at home alone in the kitchen for at least 90 minutes. Police have questioned Wesley Mathews as to whether the young girl, adopted in 2016 from an orphanage in Nalanda, Bihar, was alive when the family returned from dinner. Wesley has said she was.

When Sherin went missing early morning Oct. 7, Wesley Mathews told police he had put the little girl outside their Richardson, Texas home at 3 a.m. in the morning, as a punishment for not drinking her milk. Following an intensive search by Richardson police and the community, Sherin Mathews body was found in a culvert Oct. 26, a short distance from the home.

Turning himself in to law enforcement a day later, Wesley Mathews said he had tried to “physically assist” his daughter in drinking her milk, and then watched her choke. He said he placed her dead body outside the home.

An autopsy report released by the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office Jan. 3 concluded that Sherin Mathews had died of “homicidal violence.” The autopsy report states that the little girl’s body was too badly decomposed to determine more about her death (see earlier India-West story here).

"We do want to make certain justice is done on behalf of this little three-year-old,” Johnson told reporters at a press briefing, adding, “We will be seeking justice on her behalf.”

She added, "We are going to be the voice for her in this offense, and do all we can to make sure the fair and just thing is done,” noting that the case was still being investigated.

“Sadly, Sherin appears to be one of the many abused and neglected children in Texas,” said Johnson.

In a press statement, Johnson thanked Anupam Ray, the Indian Consul General in Dallas.

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