Heartbreak

The adoptive father of Sherin Mathews (above) recanted his earlier statement when he turned himself in – accompanied by his attorney – and claimed Sherin choked on her milk. He admitted to disposing of his daughter’s body after her pulse stopped. (family photo/Richardson Police Dept.)

The residents of Richardson, Texas, are mourning and angry over the tragic death of 3-year-old Sherin Mathews, with many asking why her Indian American foster father did not wake his nurse wife when he knew that the toddler was choking on milk and struggling to breathe, according to a PTI report.

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.

"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.

India-West’s earlier report said that the body of Richardson, Texas toddler Sherin Mathews, who had been missing for over two weeks, was found Oct. 22, and positively identified by the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office two days later, via her dental records.

Sherin’s body was found about a half mile from her family’s home, in a drainage culvert. The cause of her death has not yet been determined.

Sherin’s adoptive father, Indian American Wesley Mathews, turned himself in to the Richardson Police Department on the afternoon of Oct. 23. Mathews initially told police Oct. 7 that he had put Sherin out in the alley behind their home at 3 a.m. as a punishment for not drinking her milk. When he went to check on her 15 minutes later, Sherin was gone, he said. Police noted he waited five hours before calling police, and did a load of laundry in the meantime.

Mathews recanted his earlier statement when he turned himself in – accompanied by his attorney – and claimed Sherin choked on her milk. He admitted to disposing of his daughter’s body after her pulse stopped.

Mathews is being held at Richardson City Jail on $1 million bail for a charge of felony child endangerment, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Sgt. Kevin Perlich told India-West that Mathews could be charged with murder as the investigation continues. “Based on the information he provided, felony child endangerment is the most appropriate charge at this time,” he said, noting that murder and felony child endangerment both carry a life sentence. “It doesn’t matter what you call it,” he explained.

Sini Mathews, Sherin’s adoptive mother, continues to be under investigation, revealed Perlich, adding, however: “Until we have something to charge her with, we cannot arrest her.”

Sini Mathews, who obtained a lawyer shortly after her daughter went missing, told police she had been sleeping throughout the time that Sherin initially went missing. Perlich noted that officers are investigating whether Sherin slept in the same bed as her parents – the norm in many Indian households – which would suggest that the mother knew something of what was going on in the five hours before her husband called police. He said that the police department has been consulting with experts who are providing information about Indian cultural norms.

“The investigation is still open and more arrests may need to be made,” Perlich told India-West.

Richardson police released Wesley Mathews’ graphic arrest warrant, which contained his confession of disposing of his daughter’s body.

According to the arrest warrant, when detectives arrived at the Mathews home Oct. 7 morning at 8:12 a.m., Wesley Mathews said he directed Sherin to stand near a large tree at 3 a.m. in the morning because she wouldn’t drink her milk. At approximately 3:15 a.m., he went back to the spot, but his daughter was gone.

Mathews escorted an officer to the tree, which was approximately 100 feet south of the house and across an alleyway. The father told police he knew coyotes had been seen in the alley where he left his daughter.

On Oct. 23, after he was Mirandized, Mathews told a detective that he had been trying to get Sherin to drink her milk at 3 a.m. in the garage. Sherin wouldn’t listen to him, said Mathews in his statement to police, but eventually started to drink the milk.

Mathews said he then tried to physically assist Sherin in drinking her milk, but she began to choke. She was coughing, and her breathing slowed, said the father. Eventually, the father said he no longer felt a pulse on his child and believed she had died.

Wesley Mathews then admitted to removing the body from the home.

The two-week intensive search for the special needs toddler – who had communicative and cognitive issues, along with an impairment in one eye – focused on the Mathews’ maroon Acura, which reportedly left the home at 4 a.m., and returned an hour later, according to neighbors’ accounts to police.

The FBI seized more than 47 items from the Mathews’ home and vehicles, including various electronic devices, the washer and dryer, the contents of a vacuum cleaner, a changing table cover and blanket, along with several other pieces of evidence. All the family cars were also seized, along with DNA swabs from throughout the house and vehicles and Wesley Mathews’ passport.

Police used K9 dogs and drones in the search for Sherin.

Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj tweeted last week that the MEA was actively involved in the case. Sherin – who was adopted 16 months ago from the Mother Teresa Anath Seva Sansthan, a nonprofit orphanage in Nalanda, Bihar – was an Indian national.

News organizations in India reported that Sherin – whose birth name was Saraswati – was found in the bushes outside the orphanage.

The Mathews went to court Oct. 23 morning to regain custody of their four-year-old biological daughter, who has been placed in foster care by Child Protective Services since Sherin went missing early morning Oct. 7. A judge gave the couple three more weeks to submit a modified statement of why the child should be returned (see earlier India-West story here).

Facebook users from around the world flooded the Richardson Police Department’s news feed to offer prayers for the young victim. Hundreds of people also attended a vigil for Sherin Oct. 22, hours after a body was found, but not identified. “A lot of people are in shock and anger, and frustrated,” said vigil organizer Omair Siddiqi.

PTI adds: A neighbor, Barabara Diamond Johnson, asked why did not Wesley wake his nurse wife as Sherin choked to death, especially when she is a registered nurse at Children's hospital Dallas.

People who live in the neighborhood stopped their cars or their daily walks Oct. 25 to see the ditch where Sherin's body was found. They pulled phones from their pockets to take photos of the spot.

Since Oct. 22, 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.

Richardson police Oct. 25 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 told NBC 5 Oct. 25 that he has withdrawn and is no longer Sini's criminal defense attorney.

According to the Child Adoption Resource Authority, the nodal body for adoption in India, timely follow-up reports were sent to it from Holt International, the authorized foreign adoption agency in the 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.”

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