Missing Indian girl in US: Foster father arrested after he changes story

PTI
Houston, TX, United States Published: Oct 24, 2017, 03:05 PM(IST)

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. Photograph:( Others )

The foster father of a missing 3- year-old Indian girl was today arrested and charged with first-degree felony injury to a child after he changed his story about the circumstances surrounding her mysterious disappearance over two weeks ago.

Wesley Mathews, 37, was arrested after the Indian- American changed his story about his adoptive daughter Sherin Mathew's disappearance from outside their home in suburban Dallas in Texas state.

Mathews has been charged with first-degree felony injury to a child
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Mathews had previously claimed that Sherin went missing after he sent her outside their home at around 3 am on October 7 as punishment for not drinking her milk.

Yesterday, the Richardson Police announced that they discovered the remains of a small child in a tunnel beneath a road, expressing apprehension that it was "most likely" that of Sherin. They, however, did not confirm the identity.

"He voluntarily arrived at the Richardson Police Station with his attorney and asked to speak with detectives. He provided an alternate statement of events from those which he had given previously, regarding the disappearance of Sherin," Richardson Police Department Spokesman Sergeant Kevin Perlich said.

The particulars of his statements that might have led to the charge have not yet been explained by authorities.

Mathews, who hails from Kerala, was booked into the Richardson City Jail on a USD one million bond.

The father was previously arrested and charged with felony endangerment to a child and was placed on electronic ankle monitoring. He surrendered his passport as a condition of making bond on October 9. He was later released.

First-degree felony injury to a child is punishable by up to life imprisonment or from five to 99 years in prison, US media reported.

Sherin, who has developmental issues and limited verbal communication skills, was last seen outside her family's backyard in Richardson city on October 7.

Mathews and his wife Sini reportedly adopted Sherin two years ago from an orphanage in Bihar.

The body of a small child was discovered in a culvert beneath a road with the help of search dogs. Police have not released any details about how the child died. The body was found about one km from the house of Mathews.

"We are still awaiting a positive identification from the Dallas County Medical Examiners office for the child's body found yesterday, believed to be Sherin Mathews," Perlich said.

Child Protective Services took custody of the Indian-American couple's other biological daughter shortly after Mathews was arrested.

Wesley Mathews, who hails from Kerala, was booked into the Richardson City Jail on a USD one million bond. (Others)

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Sini Mathews, the girl's mother does not face any charges. She was in the house at the time, but was reportedly asleep and unaware of what her husband was doing, police had said earlier.

Earlier in the day Mathews and his wife, Sini, attended a court hearing to determine whether they could regain custody of their 4-year-old biological daughter who was placed in protective custody after Sherin went missing.

But the judge at a Dallas County court decided that the older sibling of Sherin will remain in foster care for at least three more weeks.

The judge postponed custody hearing until November 13 to allow Mathews to hire a civil attorney.

The girl will remain in foster care until that hearing or until a judge orders a change in custody, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services.

"We do have the names of some relatives who have expressed interest in taking care of her," Gonzales said.

"We can begin looking into those relatives, but it is entirely up to the judge where she is placed," she said.

On Monday evening, people gathered near the culvert where police found the body of a small child.

Many people expressed shock at the father's second arrest.

"Justice should be done for this little child," said Indian-American Anthony Sabu. "This little child has gone through the worst things in her life. She was abandoned when she was born and this family adopted her, and this is not what we expected," Sabu was quoted as saying by NBC News.

Sherin's case also caught the attention of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

"We are deeply concerned about the missing child. Indian Embassy in US is actively involved and they keep me informed," Swaraj tweeted on October 19.

"We are closely monitoring the Sherin Mathews case. We have established contact with the community and authorities," India's Consul General in Houston, Anupam Ray had tweeted. 

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