People in Richardson, Texas, are mourning and angry over the tragic death of 3-year-old Indian girl Sherin Mathews, with many asking why her foster father did not wake his nurse wife when he knew that the toddler was choking on milk and struggling to breathe, writes Seema Hakhu Kachru.
Sherin, who had developmental issues and limited verbal communication skills, was confirmed dead by Richardson Police, Oct. 24, after over two weeks of searches. She was missing since Oct. 7.
Wesley Mathews, 37, the Indian American father of Sherin, told the police, Oct. 24, that his daughter choked while drinking milk and he removed her body from the house as he “believed she had died.”
He had previously claimed that Sherin went missing after he sent her outside their home at around 3 a.m., Oct. 7, as punishment for not drinking her milk.
Wesley, who works in an IT company, was re-arrested and charged with first-degree felony injury to a child due to a conflicting statement to police.
The arrest came a day after the body of a small child was found in a culvert near their home in suburban Dallas.
While the cause of her death was still being probed, the community and neighborhoods all across Texas are shocked, heartbroken, angry and mourning her death.
Wesley’s wife Sini Mathews, who is a registered nurse and could have helped her, was reportedly sleeping in her room.
“All these lies, first punishing the girl and putting her under tree, later choking her in a garage at 3 AM for not drinking milk, does not add up. It is heartbreaking and shocking,” said a teary-eyed resident Diana.
“It will be another story soon, when police will find the actual cause of the death,” she said.
Another neighbor, Barabara Diamond Johnson asked why did Wesley not wake his nurse wife as Sherin choked to death, especially when she is a registered nurse at a children’s hospital in Dallas.
People who live in the neighborhood stopped their cars or their daily walks to see the ditch where Sherin’s body was found. They pulled phones from their pockets to take photos of the spot.
Heavy hearts joined in song and prayer for the little girl found in the culvert.
“I think everybody is just ready for closure and we just want her to be at peace,” said resident Gauthami Vemula.
The incident has left the shocked community with many unanswered questions.
Over the past two weeks, Sherin brought the whole community together in the suburb, as countless volunteers searched in and around Richardson hoping to find the toddler.
Many gathered for a prayer vigil a few hours after learning of the heartbreaking developments.
“A lot of people are in shock and anger and frustrated.
Let’s just try our best to breathe and regroup to focus our energy back on this little girl, this princess and find ways to seek her justice as best and as quick as possible,” said vigil organizer Omair Siddiqi.
Meanwhile, Richardson police are sharing new details into their ongoing investigation into the disappearance and death of Sherin.
Richardson Police Department sergeant Kevin Perlich told reporters that they had previously searched the area near the culvert where Mathews’ body was found, Oct. 22, but had come up empty-handed.
After heavy rainfall overnight, Oct. 21, police returned to the area near East Spring Valley and South Bowser roads with cadaver dogs Oct. 22 morning, knowing that rain tends to help intensify smells. An investigator and search team said the little girl’s clothed body was then found “a ways into the culvert,” according to Perlich.
Richardson police made a plea for Sini to agree to speak with the police. She has reportedly not cooperated with the police since the weekend of Oct. 7.
Her attorney Kent Starr said she is “distraught” over the loss of her daughter and that she is trying to regain custody of her four-year-old biological daughter who was placed in foster care after her sister’s disappearance.
Starr told NBC 5 that he has withdrawn and is no longer Sini’s criminal defense attorney.
Police are still investigating how long Sherin’s body had been in the drainage ditch.
Sherin’s body was positively identified, Oct. 24, and autopsy results are pending. It is unclear whether authorities believe Wesley’s new account of what happened.
Police have unsuccessfully tried to get Sini to voluntarily answer questions, Perlich said.
Police spoke with her, the day after Sherin’s body was found but before authorities confirmed her identity.
Sini provided police with dental records, which were used to identify Sherin.
The police have said Sherin was small for her age and it was not unusual for her to eat in the middle of the night to gain weight. Sherin, who was about three-feet tall weighing just 10 Kg, was malnourished when she was adopted last year and did not have the language skills of a typical 3-year-old.
The couple adopted Sherin from India last year.
According to the Child Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), the nodal body for adoption in India, timely follow-up reports were sent to it from Holt International, the authorized foreign adoption agency in U.S. which was overseeing Sherin’s case.
A top CARA official said that four reports were submitted to it between September 2016 and June 2017, indicating that the child was “comfortable,” “secure” and “adjusting well.”
Police in Texas have not ruled out the possibility of more arrests in the mysterious death of a 3-year-old Indian girl even as her foster father is facing a charge that carries the possibility of a life sentence.
Wesley Mathews, 37, was re-arrested after he changed his story about Sherin Mathew’s mysterious disappearance.