A former caregiver of a 3-year-old Sherin Mathews is disputing her adoptive father’s claims that she was malnourished.
The girl went missing earlier this month and later was found dead.
Sherin Mathews was found in a drain in suburban Dallas this week. Her adoptive father, Wesley Mathews, who changed his story, was charged and is being held in jail.
The manager of an Indian orphanage says that Sherin was cheerful, healthy, and eating well a year ago, before she was adopted by the Mathews family, according to The Associated Press.
Babita Kumari, who managed the Mother Teresa Orphanage and Children’s Home in the city of Nalanda in India, told AP that she wants to know what happened to the girl. “Look at the photos of the child. Does she look malnourished?” Kumari asked.
“I have so many questions about what happened to her,” Kumari said.
Kumari said the girl, who was then named Saraswati, was cheerful. “We loved her laughter,” Kumari said. “She was a smart child.”
On Oct. 7, Mathews reported the child missing, claiming that he punished her for not drinking her milk and told her to stand outside. This week, however, he said that she choked and he did nothing as she died. Mathews admitted to transferring her body elsewhere.
He told officials that the girl had developmental disabilities and was malnourished, developing a diet regimen that had her eat whenever she was awake.
— Meredith Yeomans (@YeomansNBC5) October 26, 2017
“Eventually the 3-year-old girl began to drink the milk. Wesley Mathews then physically assisted the 3-year-old girl in drinking the milk,” according to a affidavit of his arrest. He told police that she choked before she had no pulse and he thought she had died.
Kumari said the girl was eating normally when she left the orphanage.
— Sheeba Sinto (@SheebaSinto) October 17, 2017
“Why did they have to make her eat or drink anything at that hour? Why was he forcing her?” Kumari told AP. “If someone is forcing a drink into the mouth of someone who is crying and sobbing, then even an adult can choke.”
The adoptive mother of Sherin, Sini Mathews, said on Thursday that she is cooperating with police in the investigation.
Mathews, via her lawyers Mitchell Nolte and Gregg Gibbs, sent out a statement saying she was not involved in the death of the toddler, who had special needs and was adopted from India. She also said she didn’t help remove the girl’s body from the home.
They contend Sini was “interrogated for hours by several officers with no attorney present” a few days after the child’s disappearance, NBC DFW reported. The statement added: “Now that Mr. Mathews has turned himself into the police and told them what happened to Sherin, we see no need for Mrs. Mathews to endure further police interrogation. She had nothing to do with Sherin’s death or the removal of her body from the home.”
The mother is now “trying to grieve for her lost daughter while still caring for her remaining daughter. She is struggling to pick up the pieces of a shattered life,” the attorneys said.
The couple’s 4-year-old biological daughter remains in foster care, a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services representative confirmed to NBC this week.