DALLAS - A Richardson father charged in the death of his 3-year-old special needs daughter who was adopted from India pleaded guilty to a lesser charge on Monday.
Wesley Mathews pleaded guilty to injury to a child by omission, which took the automatic life sentence without parole punishment off the table. Instead, the trial began Monday afternoon in the punishment phase. Wesley Mathews could get anything ranging from probation to life in prison.
The case has received high interest since Sherin Mathews went missing in October 2017.
At the time of her disappearance, Wesley Mathews told police he left her outside of their Richardson home because she wouldn't drink her milk. Her body was found dumped in a drainage ditch near their home weeks later. Mathews then told police that she died choking on milk while he was feeding her.
Prosecutors said during opening statements of the punishment phase that the details of the case would be disturbing for jury members.
"This trial is not going to be fun to sit through. It's going to be horrific. There are things that you will hear, photos you will see, that will not go away. I'll tell you that right now. That's the reality of what happened to Sherin and it's because of him," prosecutor Jason Fine said.
A judge ruled that the state can reveal that Sherin was injured six months before her death with multiple fractures, and her parents did not get her treatment for weeks. Prosecutors can also tell the jury that Mathews deleted messages between him and his wife, Sini, when police seized his phone.
The state on Monday called several therapists who helped Sherin with her speech and feeding skills. They testified she was progressing well and one therapist said she didn't recall the girl ever choking.
The jury also heard testimony and saw body camera video from an officer who responded to the Mathews' home after Wesley called the non-emergency number to report Sherin missing -- prosecutors say one of many lies.
The defense will now focus on trying to keep Wesley out of jail for the rest of his life.
"You are going to hear from him sitting right here," said defense attorney Rafael De la Garza. "He is going to look at you and he's going to tell you exactly what took place. The lies, the poor decisions that he made, and his honest regret that he has. But you will also know that he has accepted responsibility for what he has done and what he was guilty for."
Wife and mother, Sini Mathews, was originally charged with child abandonment in the case. That charge was dropped because the district attorney said it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. She could be called to testify in this case.
The jury was instructed to have personal belongings brought to them, so they're prepared to be sequestered for three to four days.