Police in Texas say they have “most likely” found the body of Sherin Mathews, a missing 3-year-old girl whose father claims he sent her alone into an alley when she wouldn’t drink her milk.
Officers and search dogs on Sunday morning discovered a small child’s body in a culvert near Spring Valley and Bowser roads, less than a mile from the Mathews’ home in a suburb north of Dallas. Sherin disappeared Oct. 7.
A police spokesman told reporters that investigators have no reason to believe that the body belongs to another missing child. They are awaiting positive identification and for an autopsy to determine what killed the child. Investigators have notified Sherin’s parents.
“Worst news finding child’s body,” Richardson Police Chief Jimmy Spivey tweeted. But if the recovered body is Sherin’s, Spivey tweeted, he’s “happy [it has been] recovered so properly laid to rest.”
He also vowed to bring those responsible “to justice.”
Sherin’s father, Wesley Mathews, was arrested on child abandonment and endangerment charges the same day that Sherin went missing but has since been released on bail. He has stopped cooperating with detectives, according to CBS 11. He had not been charged with an additional crime as of Monday morning.
As part of his bail condition, Mathews was required to surrender his passport and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet so authorities could track him at all times, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Sherin’s 4-year-old sister has been taken into custody by child protective services and placed in foster care. A court hearing is scheduled for Monday morning, where a judge will determine if her parents can regain custody of the older girl.
Sherin’s disappearance has transfixed the Dallas area. Her father told investigators that he looked outside 15 minutes after he sent Sherin into the alley but she was gone, according to police affidavits.
Not yet too worried, the father said, he then did a load of laundry, according to the affidavit. He waited until after sunrise before he reported the disappearance to police.
Detectives and FBI agents searched Mathews’s house midweek and subsequently announced that someone left in the family’s SUV about 4 a.m. the day she disappeared and returned home within the hour.
Police said Sherin’s mother was asleep during the incident and has not been charged, but the station reported she also has stopped cooperating.
Meanwhile, police scoured Richardson, a suburb of 100,000 about 15 miles north of Dallas. They brought in search dogs, flew over Sherin’s neighborhood in helicopters and canvassed door to door for the 22-pound girl last seen wearing a pink top, black pajama bottoms and pink flip flops.
Mathews and his wife, Sini, adopted Sherin about two years ago from an orphanage in India, said Sgt. Kevin Perlich, a spokesman for the Richardson Police Department. Mathews told police Sherin was malnourished and had to be on a special diet to gain weight. She had to be fed whenever she was awake, Perlich said, and wasn’t cooperating when her father tried to feed her.
“So that was the frustration [Mathews] was experiencing that night,” Perlich said. “But, of course, we’re working to verify all of that.”
This post, originally published on Oct. 22, has been updated.