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Father of missing 3-year-old Sherin Mathews arrested after changing story, police say

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 24/10/2017 Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Avi Selk, Herman Wong

a man smiling for the camera: Wesley Mathews. © Richardson Texas Police Department via AP Wesley Mathews. The father of a missing 3-year-old has been arrested and charged Monday after changing his story about her disappearance, Texas police said.

Wesley Mathews provided “an alternate statement of events” about his adopted daughter, Sherin, to detectives hours after the body of a small child was found, Richardson police said. Mathews had previously claimed she went missing after he sent her alone into an alley when she wouldn’t drink her milk. Authorities did not provide additional details.

He has been charged with injury to a child, a first degree felony punishable by life or from five to 99 years in prison.

Earlier Monday, police said they had “most likely” found the body of Sherin Mathews.

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’s 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.”

FILE- This undated photo provided by the Richardson Texas Police Department shows 3-year-old Sherin Mathews. © Richardson Texas Police Department via AP FILE- This undated photo provided by the Richardson Texas Police Department shows 3-year-old Sherin Mathews.

Mathews had previously been arrested on child abandonment and endangerment charges the same day that Sherin went missing but was released on bail.

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.

On Monday, Mathews and his wife, Sini, had attended a court hearing to determine whether they could regain custody of their biological daughter. The 4-year-old had been taken into custody by child protective services and placed in foster care after Sherin was reported missing. The judge postponed the hearing until Nov. 13 to give Mathews time to hire a civil attorney, a spokeswoman for CPS told the Associated Press.

“We do have the names of some relatives who have expressed interest in taking care of her,” said the spokeswoman, Marissa Gonzales. “We can begin looking into those relatives, but it is entirely up to the judge where she is placed.”

Sherin’s disappearance has transfixed the Dallas area. Her father previously 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. Her attorney says she has cooperated with the police in trying to help identify Sherin’s body.

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 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.”

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