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State Failed to Protect Adopted Indian Girl, Says US Child Protection Official

Sherin Mathews, reported missing on October 7, was found dead in a culvert about 1 km from her home on October 22 by a cadaver dog during a massive search for her in suburban Dallas.


Updated:December 4, 2017, 7:53 PM IST
State Failed to Protect Adopted Indian Girl, Says US Child Protection Official
File photo of US Flag/Reuters

Houston: Authorities in Texas failed to protect Sherin Mathews when a doctor found in January that the 3-year-old Indian girl had several bone fractures and alerted them that she had been hurt at the hands of her adoptive parents, a top US child protection official has acknowledged.

Sherin, reported missing on October 7, was found dead in a culvert about 1 km from her home on October 22 by a cadaver dog during a massive search for her in suburban Dallas.

The cause of death has not yet been determined by the medical examiner's office. Sherin was adopted by the Indian- American couple, Wesley and Sini Mathews, from an orphanage in India last year.

Commenting on the tragic story that grabbed international headlines, Texas Child Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman said he was disappointed in his agency's handling of Sherin Mathews' case and promised to get to the bottom of it.

Wesley and his wife Sini are accused of leaving their adoptive daughter, Sherin, home alone in October 6. On October 7, Wesley called police and reported Sherin missing. He had initially told police that Sherin disappeared overnight after he ordered her to stand outside at about 3 am for not drinking her milk. When he returned, Wesley said she had disappeared and that her location was unknown.

Whitman told WFAA TV channel that has is baffled why the Child Protective Services (CPS) did not remove Sherin from the home when they received the report from the paediatrician and child abuse expert.

"That is something I cannot answer. I can tell you that it breaks my heart. I'm a cop. I mean, to have a child go outside because they didn't want to drink their milk or whatever, I mean that story was just not believable."

"I don't know. I don't know what was going through her father's mind. It's astounding to me why someone would do that to a baby," he said.

Whitman then said he does not want to get into specifics of the case and does not want to do anything to hamper prosecution.

Wesley, 37, has been charged with felony injury to a child and her mother, Sini, 35, was arrested later and charged with child endangerment.

The Richardson Police Department in Texas state and the FBI continue to investigate Sherin's death.

Dr Suzanne Dakil of Referral and Evaluation of At Risk Children Clinic, testified last Wednesday in a custody hearing that Sherin had broken bones and injuries in various stages of healing.

Sini Mathews told the doctor that Sherin had fallen at the playground and that she grabbed her. But Dakil said the injuries were "not consistent with that explanation."

Whitman said the CPS could have done a much better job after receiving an early warning from Dr Dakil in January this year of possible child abuse, nearly nine months before her death.

"I think they (the CPS) could have done a better job, a much better job. It's sad when I saw that, and I read the case report. I was silent for 10 seconds, and looking at my staff, it's not acceptable. It's not acceptable. We are well-trained people. How this slipped through? We're going to find out," Whitman said.

Dakil told the court that after looking at X-rays, she determined that Sherin's legs were fractured. Sini told Dakil that Sherin had brittle bones as a result of the poor diet she had in India. However, the doctor determined that the injuries had occurred after she moved away from India.

"At that point, I had no explanation other than this child had been physically abused," Dakil said.

Asked if he believed that Sherin's adoptive father killed her, Whitman said, "I am not going to comment on that. I am an investigator and a seasoned one. I do not want to say anything that would be detrimental to any investigation."

Meanwhile, a public vigil was held on Saturday for Sherin in Richardson city. Hundreds of volunteers had helped the police for over two weeks in search for her, and on Saturday, some of them gathered to say goodbye.

While the location of Sherin' resting place remains unknown, people in Richardson gathered Saturday for their own memorial service to remember the child they say brought them together.

A little over 50 people joined together at Christ Community Church for a memorial service. Most of them never met Sherin but felt a deep connection.

"It just touched me that this happened right on the doorstep of our church, almost," said lead pastor Dr. Terrence Autry.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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