Houston: Teary-eyed community members have unveiled a permanent site in memory of Sherin Mathews, the Indian toddler who went missing mysteriously and was found dead in a culvert, at an inter-faith ceremony at a cemetery in Dallas.
A granite bench engraved with 3-year-old Sherin's name and an epitaph adorns the landscaped site, in a portion of the Restland Funeral home and Cemetery in Dallas.
The bench was unveiled at a portion of the cemetery dedicated to young children. The epitaph of Sherin reads: "A life that touches others goes on forever."
Community members gathered in large numbers yesterday despite chilly weather to honor the short life of Sherin. There was not a single dry eye during an hour-long inter-faith ceremony.
Organizers also put together a memorial video of Sherin -- tiny and smiling. Later, the members walked out to the bench and paid their tributes. Doves were released as a last tribute to Sherin. Stuffed toys were also collected to donate in Sherin's honor.
Sherin was buried on October 31 at the southwest portion of the cemetery at the Turrentine-Jackson-Morrow Funeral Home in Dallas at a funeral held secretly to avoid the intense media glare following her tragic death.
At that time, the burial location was kept a secret, considering the intense press and social media attention in the case.
Holding back her tears, memorial organizer Shari Block said, "She's going to live in our hearts forever and it really means a lot to have a place for the child. Most of us only knew her from afar, but with her tragic loss, those who mourn Sherin needed a place to grieve."
The granite bench was donated by a Richardson resident, Eugene Champagne. He had won the bench in a raffle.
"I won that for a reason," said Champagne.
"I don't want her to ever be forgotten. This community cares for each other, especially the way she touched our hearts, so we are here to honour her the way she should have been honored in the first place," he said.
People from Richardson and surrounding communities united to search and pray for Sherin, regardless of religion, language, race, culture or nationality.
Sherin's body was found on October 22 after she disappeared from her family's home on October 7. Her adoptive father Wesley told police that he put her outside their home at 3 am to discipline her for not drinking her milk.
His story changed after her body was found in a culvert, telling police that he "physically assisted" with pouring the milk down Sherin's throat and then moved her body after he realised she had choked and died.
A doctor testified before a court that Sherin had broken bones and had injuries in various stages of healing.
Wesley, 37, has been charged with felony injury to a child. Sherin's mother, Sini, 35, was arrested later and charged with child endangerment.
The Dallas Medical Examiner's Office is yet to release the autopsy report.
The Indian-American couple from Kerala has a 4-year-old biological daughter, who was taken away by Child Protective Services after Sherin went missing. She is now living with a family member in Houston.