Orphanage in India demands answers after three-year-old girl adopted by Texas couple dies 'drinking milk'

Sherin Mathews adoptive father said the girl choked while drinking her milk late at night

Natasha Salmon
Sunday 29 October 2017 15:48 GMT
Sherin Mathews
Sherin Mathews (Richardson Texas Police Department/The Washington Post)

An orphanage in India is demanding answers after the death of a three-year-old girl who had been adopted by a Texas couple.

The adoptive father of Sherin Mathews said she died by choking on her milk after he “physically assisted” her drinking it late at night.

Her body was found two weeks after she was reported missing by Wesley Mathews who initially said he had made her stand outside as punishment for not drinking her milk, before changing his story.

The Indian orphanage where she lived before the adoption has said they want answers as to why the "happy and cheerful" child died, as reported by the Washington Post.

“We loved her laughter,” Babita Kumari, who managed the Mother Teresa Orphanage and Children’s Home in the city of Nalanda in eastern India’s Bihar state.

Sherin had lived at the orphanage since she was an infant and at the time was named Saraswati, after the Hindu goddess of wisdom.

“She was a smart child,” Ms Kumari said.

She was then puzzled to hear what happened to the toddler and how Mathews, who adopted her last year, was jailed.

Mathews told police Sherin was drinking milk in the middle of the night because she needed to have meals at odd hours as part of a special diet because she was malnourished.

“Look at the photos of the child. Does she look malnourished?” Ms Kumari asked.

“I have so many questions about what happened to her,” she added.

Sherin Mathews (AP)

Mathews had reported his daughter missing on 7 October after he said he sent her alone into an alley near their home in Richardson, Texas, as punishment.

He reported her missing several hours after the initial disappearance raising questions.

Then more than two weeks later, after police found a body, Mathews "voluntarily arrived at the Richardson Police Station with his attorney and asked to speak to detectives".

He told police that he had been "trying to get the three-year-old girl to drink her milk in the garage" but she wouldn't listen to him, according to court documents,

He said he "physically assisted" Sherin in drinking her milk and that the girl choked on the drink.

"She was coughing and her breathing slowed. Eventually, Wesley Mathews no longer felt a pulse on the child and believed she had died," the affidavit said. Mathews then admitted to removing her body from the home.

Dental records were used to identify the body as Sherin after officers and search dogs found the body in a culvert less than a mile from the family's home.

A cause of death is yet to be confirmed.

Mathews told police three-year-old had developmental disabilities and had to eat every time she was awake to help her gain weight.

But the child was said to be eating solid food and drinking milk from a cup when she left the orphanage and Ms Kumari told the Associated Press that she squinted in one eye but was otherwise fine when adopted by Wesley and Sini Mathews in June 2016.

“Why did they have to make her eat or drink anything at that hour? Why was he forcing her?” Ms Kumari asked.

“If someone is forcing a drink into the mouth of someone who is crying and sobbing, then even an adult can choke.”

As reported by the Post, Wesley Mathews’s attorney, Rafael De La Garza, did not respond to requests for comment.

The attorney representing the girl’s mother, Sini Mathews, however, Mitch Nolte, said in a statement this week that the mother was not involved in Sherin’s death or the removal of her body and wants privacy to mourn her child.

Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter that passports for children adopted from India will now be issued only with the ministry's approval.

She also asked the Consulate General of India in Houston to investigate the child's death.

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