Prosecutors in Dallas will decide in the coming weeks whether to seek the death penalty against the adoptive father of a 3-year-old girl whose body was found two weeks after she went missing.
A grand jury in Dallas County, Texas, on Friday returned several charges, most notably capital murder, against Wesley Mathews. He is accused of killing Sherin Mathews in October 2017.
Grand jury returns indictments in death of Sherin Mathews, 3
Adoptive father could face death penalty
Mathews, 37, told police that he disposed of the child's body after she choked on her milk early on October 7, according to a probable cause affidavit released at the time.
Authorities were tight-lipped at a news conference Friday, saying they did not want to prejudice a jury and were continuing to investigate.
"We do want to make certain justice is done on behalf of this little 3-year-old," said District Attorney Faith Johnson. "We will be seeking justice on her behalf."
The child's body was found in a culvert beneath a road.
The medical examiner ruled Sherin, who was from India, died from homicidal violence but did not release additional details, CNN affiliate KTVT reported. "Based on the autopsy report we were able to determine we could seek capital murder in this case," Johnson said Friday.
Mathews previously was charged with injury to a child, a first-degree felony punishable with a maximum 99 years in prison, police in the Dallas suburb of Richardson said.
Friday's indictment adds abandoning a child and tampering with evidence, second-degree allegations punishable by two to 20 years in prison.
The girl's adoptive mother, Sini Mathews, 35, faces one count of abandoning a child. That stems from the couple's decision to leave the girl at home on October 6 while they went out to dinner with their biological child, according to the indictment.
CNN reached out to attorneys for the couple for comment, but received no reply.
Attorney David Kleckner said in November at a hearing about custody of the couple's biological child that Wesley Mathews is "a good father, a loving man and loves his family."
Sini Mathews has maintained her innocence, KTVT has reported.
Father's later story to police
Mathews had initially told authorities he made Sherin stand outside because she wouldn't drink her milk, and she disappeared.
In a second interview about two weeks after Sherin went missing, the father gave a different account. He told a detective that he had been trying to get Sherin to drink her milk in the garage, and she wouldn't listen to him, the affidavit states. She then began drinking the milk.
"Wesley Mathews then physically assisted the 3-year-old in drinking the milk," last year's affidavit states. "The 3-year-old 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 father said he removed the body from the home, the affidavit says.
Wesley Mathews was jailed on $1 million bond last fall. Johnson said she would seek a higher amount.