Sherin Mathews, the 3-year-old Indian-American girl child who was found dead under mysterious circumstances in Texas in October, might have been subjected to prolonged abuse by her adoptive parents.
The startling revelation that Sherin had a series of broken bones and injuries in various stages of healing, was made by a doctor before a US court on Wednesday.
Sherin's adoptive parents Wesley Mathews (charged for causing felony injury to the child) and Sini Mathews (charged for abandoning and endangering the child) appeared before a court for a Child Protective Services (CPS) hearing regarding the custody of their biological daughter.
The 4-year-old who was initially removed from the Mathews' home and put under foster care, was recently released to a family member in Houston.
Paediatrician and child abuse expert Susan Dakil of Referral and Evaluation of At Risk Children Clinic testified that the X-rays taken in September 2016 and February 2017, showed visible injuries on Sherin. The doctor added that those injuries were inflicted upon Sherin after she was adopted and brought to the US. Sherin was adopted from Bihar in July 2016.
The doctor told the court that she had suspected Sherin was being abused and had duly reported it to the CPS. Sherin's parents had then told the doctor that the September injury was caused after the couple's elder daughter pushed Sherin off the couch. The February injury, Sini had maintained, was caused when Sherin slipped on a slide, and Sini had to grab the child.
During the hearing, the prosecution questioned Sini about Sherin's broken femur, elbow and tibia. However, Sini pleaded the Fifth Amendment – protection against self-incrimination, thereby refusing to answer the question.
WFAA reported that Sini invoked the 5th amendment for most of the questions asked to her in the 37-minute long hearing.
Saying that Sherin was a "failure to thrive" patient, indicating that she was below the third percentile of the growth curve for children of the same age, the doctor said that Sherin continued to lose weight.
During the hearing, the State reportedly pointed out that Wesley had not called the emergency 911, but the non-emergency number to report that Sherin was missing on the morning of October 7.
Sherin was reported missing on October 7 by her adoptive father Wesley, who claimed that he had sent the child out of the house at 3 am as punishment for not drinking milk. He had initially claimed that Sherin had disappeared when he returned 15 minutes later.
Wesley was first charged for abandoning and endangering the child. However, Wesley's version of events came under a cloud of suspicion, when the police found that a car from the residence had gone out between 4 am and 5 am, minutes after Sherin reportedly disappeared.
At the end of weeks of search operations, on October 22, the Richardson police recovered Sherin's body from a culvert, less than a kilometer from the Mathews' residence. A day after this Wesley was re-arrested, following which, he changed his statement to the police. In his revised statement, Wesley said that he was "physically assisting" Sherin to drink her milk at their garage, when the child choked. Thinking that she was dead, Wesley admitted to removing the body from the house.
However, during the CPS hearing, when Wesley was asked whether he killed Sherin, he pleaded the fifth amendment.