A US father accused of killing his adopted three-year-old daughter has been sentenced to life in jail after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.
US media said the unanimous verdict came after Wesley Mathews confessed to “injury of a child by omission”.
Sherin Mathews was reported missing from her Texas home in October 2017, triggering a large search operation.
Mathews originally said she disappeared after he put her outside as a punishment for not drinking her milk.
After the girl’s body was found two weeks later in a drain entrance, he said she had accidentally choked.
Police had said that his version of events changed repeatedly during the investigation.
Mathews took to the witness stand on Tuesday, where he claimed that Sherin had accidently choked on milk and died. “”I tried to gently shake Sherin so she would be out of that spell but nothing was working and in a matter — pretty soon her head started going different directions and her head came to a still,” he said, as reported in local US media.
But prosecutor Sherre Thomas argued that medical records show that it was “impossible for a child who is three years old to stand up and choke to death”.
She added that Mathews killed Sherin in October 2017. She was adopted from India a year before in 2016.
“It means he killed that little girl. And when he killed her, he panicked,” Ms Thomas told local US media. “He covered his crime. He got away with that.”
The defence attorney had argued that Mathews was a good father who panicked when Sherin choked and did not call for help. He called the sentence a “cruel and unusual punishment”.
His wife, Sini Mathews, was also charged with child abandonment but her case was dismissed earlier this year due to lack of evidence.
The couple’s biological daughter was removed from their custody shortly after the toddler was reported missing. She was initially taken into foster care, but is now said to be staying with relatives.
In November, a paediatric doctor confirmed at a custody hearing that she had contacted Child Protective Services in March over concerns with bone fractures she found on three-year-old Sherin.
The case prompted the Indian government to formally suspend Holt International, the adoption agency the Mathews used to adopt Sherin, accusing it of “negligence” in their assessment of the couple.
The country also further tightened adoption processes.