ON A day police in the Texas town where a three-year-old Indian girl had gone missing, from outside her adoptive parents’ house on the night of October 7, found a body and said it is “most likely” that of the girl, Babita Kumari, engaged with an NGO in Bihar who looked after the child before her adoption, said she still nurses hope.
“Why will anyone hurt a three-year-old…. So long as there is no confirmation, we have every reason to believe that our Saraswati is alive,” Babita said on Monday.
Saraswati was adopted two years ago from the orphanage where Babita was then the secretary — Mother Teresa Anant Seva Sansthan, since closed “after the state government stopped giving us grant” — by Wesley Mathews and Sini Mathews, Indian-Americans working in Richardson, Texas. Originally from Kerala, the couple named her Sherin.
Wesley, 37, has told the police in Richardson that he sent Sherin out of home, alone, late at night on October 7 as punishment for not drinking her milk. He was arrested on October 8 on charge of abandoning or endangering a child, and released a day later after posting a $250,000 bond, PTI reports.
In Kochi, where Wesley’s parents Sam and Valsamma Mathews are now based, their two-storey house stands deserted. According to neighbours, the elderly couple left for an undisclosed location soon after news appeared in local media that Sherin was missing. When contacted on her cellphone on Monday, Valsamma refused to discuss the issue.
On Monday morning, Richardson police found a child’s body in a culvert, about 1 km from her adoptive parents’ home, with the help of search dogs, PTI reports from Houston. No arrest has been made yet, Sergeant Kevin Perlich, spokesperson for Richardson Police, told the media.
While a medical examiner was yet to see the child’s body and make a positive identification, Perlich said “it is most likely” Sherin Mathews, and her parents have been informed. He said the medical examiner was working to determine the cause of death.
In Patna, Babita Kumari told The Indian Express, “I had raised her…. Saraswati was barely 18 months old and had just begun muttering some coherent words (when she was adopted).” She said Saraswati was found abandoned in Gaya, and the orphanage, based in Bihar Sharif, Nalanda, did not know her biological parents. “She was not a stubborn child…she would drink her milk without any fuss.”
In Kochi, a neighbour said Wesley was the youngest child of Sam Mathews, who retired from a financial firm, and Valsamma, a homemaker. “With the children settled abroad (Wesley’s elder brother and sister are in Australia), Sam and Valsamma travelled abroad quite often. We did not even know Wesley had adopted a girl. We learnt about her only after the (missing) news,’’ the neighbour said.
Area councillor M Premachandran said he had met Sam Mathews soon after local media first reported the missing case. “Sam said he could not contact his son and daughter-in-law, as both were in police custody,” Premachandran said. Sini Mathews, Sherin’s adoptive mother, does not face any charge. She was in the house at the time but was reportedly asleep and unaware of what her husband was doing, Texas police had said earlier.
Child Protective Services took custody of the Mathews’ other biological daughter, aged four, shortly after Wesley was arrested.
Neighbours in Kochi said Wesley and Sini had visited Kochi two years ago with both their daughters. — Inputs from PTI in Houston