Shannon Poteet is also campaigning for Sherin’s Law, which would make it illegal to leave a child home alone.
Texas-based homemaker and mother of two Shanna Poteet has been closely following the tragic case of Sherin Mathew, whose body was found in a culvert in Richardson, Texas, in October 2017.
Poteet, a child abuse survivor herself, was so moved by the news of the 3-year-old toddler’s death that she set up a Facebook page, “Love & Justice for Sherin Mathews,” the next day itself.
Today the page has grown into a community of more than 11,000 members, who are as affected and involved in the case and are rooting for speedy justice for the Indian American toddler.
Poteet dedicates several hours of her time each day to ensure that the page stays active and covers all aspects of the case.
A Dallas County jury on Wednesday found Wesley Mathews, the Indian American who had adopted Sherin, guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison.
But Poteet does not want to her efforts to end there. She is also campaigning for a new legislation Sherin’s Law, which would make it illegal to leave kids alone at home. A law that Poteet discovered did not exist in Texas when she got involved in Sherin’s case.
As Welsey Mathews, faced the trial this week, bringing the spotlight once again on the nerve-wrecking case, Poteet spoke with The American Bazaar on everything from receiving threats for continuing her campaign and the urgent need for Sherin’s Law.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in Sherin Mathews’ case?
I am a 38-year-old homemaker from Carrollton, Texas. I am a child abuse survivor and an advocate. I started the Facebook page “Love and Justice for Sherin Mathews,” the day after she was reported missing. Sherin’s story touched me because I was also abandoned when I was one-year-old and was adopted when I was six. My heart went out to her and I started the page. Then it just grew. Sherin’s followers are all across the world. People from different backgrounds have expressed their outpouring of support. Sherin also has a lot of support from the law enforcement community.
Do a lot of Indian Americans follow the page? How have you been updating the page and what is the kind of engagement that people offer to the case?
While I did not investigate anything, any tips that came through my page, I forwarded to law enforcement. My main objective is to keep Sherin’s story alive and continue to honor her by working with the community, law enforcement and other officials to help amend current child abuse laws to help other abused children.
What were the kind of leads that you got from the members on the page? Did it throw any light on the case?
I got some tips from some of the Church members and from some in the Indian American community, regarding what people witnessed and how Sherin was treated. Many of these people were hesitant to go to law enforcement. Unfortunately, I don’t believe any of that information could be used as it was considered hearsay.
You have yourself endured a trying childhood, did it shape the spirit of activism in you?
I was born in Arkansas and have three biological siblings and we were all abandoned in a house in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1981. I was then placed in the care of CPS and lived in several foster homes until I was adopted by a beautiful family when I was 6. My childhood home was good, although I did have some problems as a teenager and ran away quite a bit. This is one reason why I am also an advocate for runaways.
Are you satisfied with the way Sherin’s case is being handled?
Law enforcement did a great job. Richardson Police Department has been deeply affected by Sherin’s case. However, the District Attorney, John Creuzot is a different matter. He is not the original DA that handled Sherin’s case. He was just elected. His first mistake in my opinion was letting Sini Mathews (Sherin’s adoptive mother) walk away. A lot of people feel the same way, including the Richardson Police Department.
Let’s talk about Sherin’s Law. What is the progress on it and when was it conceptualized?
Sherin’s Law would make it illegal to leave children unattended under a certain age. We are also working towards asking for harsher punishment for child abusers. Sherin’s Law came about when I actually started talking to another supporter about child abuse laws and I mentioned the Casey Anthony Law to a lawyer. The lawyer told us that there was no law in Texas that makes it illegal to leave a child unattended. We had a team of people working on this which included law enforcement, representatives and the district attorney. It kind of fell apart because a new DA was elected and one of the main supporters lost her election. I am reorganizing a team that includes other legislators and community leaders who are interested in working on it. Richardson PD has always maintained their support for my page and for Sherins Law.
Were you also subject to any threats or abuse because of your continued support to the campaign?
I received a lot of nonsense on social-media and from certain people in the Indian community who told me to keep my mouth shut. Some people didn’t like I was posting about Sherin and thought I needed to mind my business. Some of them are supporters of Mathews.
Have you been dedicating a lot of time towards the case?
I have spent a lot of time over the span of year and a half. I have attended most of the hearings and have had many meetings with representatives and law enforcement.