Health

Maggots ate organs of Indian toddler, US doctor unable to perform autopsy

When the body of 3-year-old Indian toddler Sherin Mathews reached the morgue, maggots had eaten her internal organs, the doctor who performed the autopsy on the toddler in 2017 has told jurors in Dallas, Texas.

The Indian-American foster father of Sherin, Wesley Mathews, in an unexpected move, pleaded guilty on Monday to injury to a child by omission, a lesser charge, at the start of what was supposed to be his capital murder trial. On the second day of the trial on Tuesday, 39-year-old Mathews said in a testimony that he raised his voice at Sherin while he was trying to get her to drink her milk in the garage. That startled her, and she began to choke on the milk.

He initially claimed that as punishment for not drinking her milk he sent Sherin outside at 3 a.m. to stand by a tree outside the backyard of their home in Richardson, Texas. When he checked in on her 15 minutes later, Mathews said Sherin was missing.

Two weeks later, when Sherin’s body was found in a nearby culvert by a cadaver dog, Mathews changed his story, claiming he “physically assisted” his adopted daughter in drinking the milk and that the toddler choked.

Mathews and his wife Sini Mathews, both from Kerala, adopted Sherin (born as Saraswati) from an orphanage in Bihar in 2016.

Dr. Elizabeth Ventura, the forensic pathologist who performed Sherin’s autopsy in October 2017, testified on Tuesday about her conclusions in the toddler’s death.

Ventura said she could not determine how Sherin died as the body was too decomposed to get an official cause of death.

She told the jurors — four women and eight men — that maggots had eaten Sherin’s internal organs away as her body was discovered in a trash bag in a culvert two weeks after her death. Ventura said that due to the decomposition of the child’s vital organs like the heart and lungs, she was unable to perform an internal autopsy and determine her cause of death.

Complicating the issue of determining how Sherin died was the absence of other evidence, including the clothes that Mathews washed before calling to report his daughter missing.

Sherin’s body was too decomposed to determine any other medical conditions at the time of her death, she said.

She ruled the manner of Sherin’s death “homicidal violence” due to the circumstances surrounding the case, Ventura told the jurors.

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