The Indian-descent adoptive parents of Sherin Mathews, the three-year-old found dead and abandoned near her home in the US state of Texas in October, have been denied permission by a court to visit their elder biological daughter.
County judge Cheryl Lee Shannon ruled on Tuesday that the Texas Child Protection Services (CPS) does not have to help the parents – Wesley and Sini Mathews – to reunite with or regain custody of their biological daughter, who is with relatives, because of the aggravated circumstances of Sherin’s death.
Media reports indicated the couple was expected to either surrender their parental rights or have it terminated by the state. The judge’s ruling, it was reported, opened the way for CPS to permanently deny them right to the child, who is four years old.
The father is charged with causing first-degree injury to the child and the mother is accused of child abandonment – she went out for dinner with her husband and their first child, leaving Sherin alone at home. They are both in the county jail in Dallas.
Wesley Mathews has told police that Sherin died after choking on milk as he “physically assisted” her to finish it. He had put her in the back seat of his car among trash bags and dumped the body at a nearby culvert.
He called police hours after with a made-up story that he had made her stand outside the house as punishment for not finishing her milk and didn’t find her when he went back for her.
Over two days of the CPS hearing, officials from the agency, the police department and a doctor drew a picture of rank neglect and the abuse of Sherin, whom the couple had adopted from Bihar. The girl was frail and suffered from aftereffects of malnourishment.
Suzanne Dakil, a child abuse pediatrician who treated Sherin since February, told the court she was concerned about fractures suffered by the child and reported the matter to the CPS. The couple stopped visiting her after a while, and switched to their regular pediatrician.
CPS investigator Kelly Mitchell told the court she had found Sini Mathews “eerily calm” and unemotional when she went to their house to remove the couple’s biological daughter, who, she pointed out, did not cry at the time. She added she had noted many pictures in the house of the biological daughter, but none of Sherin.
Police detective Jules Farmer deposed that Sini had told police that Wesley had a “a weird look on his face” when he returned home on October 7 after removing the body. The couple had then cried and prayed for three hours around the kitchen table before calling the police.
Wesley was arrested and charged with felony injury to a child, which carries a sentence of up to life in prison.
Sini, who is behind bars on child endangerment charges, had her bond reduced from $250,000 to $100,000.