A Texas father admitted moving the body of his 3-year-old daughter from the family’s home after she choked on milk and died, according to an arrest affidavit, changing his original story that she had disappeared after he had put her outside a few hours before dawn as punishment.
Wesley Mathews, Sherin Mathews’ adoptive father, offered the new account to detectives with the Richardson Police Department on Monday, roughly 24 hours after the missing girl’s body was found near the home.
The recovery of the body, which police said was positively identified on Tuesday using dental records, capped a two-week search. A cause of death has yet to be determined.
Police said Mathews provided the new details during a voluntary visit to police headquarters with his lawyer. He said that in the early morning hours of Oct. 7, he engaged in a struggle with the girl over her refusal to drink milk in the home’s garage. He then “physically assisted her” with drinking it, and she began to choke.
“She was coughing and her breathing slowed. Eventually, Wesley Mathews no longer felt a pulse on the child and believed she had died,” the affidavit said.
Mathews said he removed the child’s body from his home. It was eventually recovered in a culvert beneath a road by a K-9 team, police said.
Mathews, whose 4-year-old biological daughter has been in foster care since Sherin’s disappearance, previously told police that the child vanished after he left her outside at about 3 a.m. as a punishment for not drinking her milk.
He was arrested on Monday night for felony injury to a child and ordered held on $1 million bond. The same day of Sherin’s disappearance, Mathews was charged with abandoning or endangering a child. He posted a $250,000 bond shortly thereafter.
Mathews wife has not been charged with a crime and has told police that she was asleep at the time of the child’s disappearance, authorities have said.
Sherin was adopted by the Mathews about two years ago from an orphanage in India. Her father said she was malnourished at the time and was on a special diet to gain weight, police told the Washington Post.
Police Sgt. Kevin Perlich told the Washington Post that the family had adopted her about two years ago from an orphanage in India; however, other outlets, including the Associated Press, have reported the adoption took place last year.
Authorities, at the time of her disappearance, described her as having “developmental issues and limited verbal communication skills.”
Mathews’ lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This story has been updated to address when she was adopted.