Houston: Sherin Mathews, the three-year-old Indian girl who had been missing for over two weeks, is dead, the Richardson Police said on Tuesday, hours after her foster father admitted that she choked while drinking milk.
Sherin, who had developmental issues and limited verbal communication skills, was last seen outside her family's backyard in Richardson city in Texas on October 7.
The Richardson Police, earlier, announced that they discovered the remains of a small child in a tunnel beneath a road, expressing apprehension that it was "most likely" that of Sherin. The body was found about one km from the house of her adoptive parents Wesley Mathews and Sini Mathews, who hail from Kochi in Kerala. He has admitted of hiding the body, TV reports said.
The police said medical examiners used dental records to identify the body and confirmed it was that of Sherin. The cause of death has not been revealed.
The Richardson Police Department has re-arrested Wesley, 37, the foster father of the girl.
He was arrested on Monday and charged with first-degree felony injury to a child after he changed his story about the circumstances surrounding her mysterious disappearance over two weeks ago.
Wesley was booked into the Richardson City Jail on a $1 million bond.
According to an arrest affidavit, Mathews told the police that his daughter choked while drinking milk and he removed her body from the house as he "believed she had died".
He said he "physically assisted" Sherin in drinking her milk when she wouldn't listen to him, according to the warrant.
"She was coughing and her breathing slowed," the affidavit said.
"Eventually, Wesley no longer felt a pulse on the child and believed she had died," it said.
Wesley had previously claimed that Sherin went missing after he sent her outside their home at around 3 am on October 7 as punishment for not drinking her milk.
"He voluntarily arrived at the Richardson Police Station with his attorney and asked to speak with detectives. He provided an alternate statement of events from those which he had given previously, regarding the disappearance of Sherin," Richardson Police Department spokesman sergeant Kevin Perlich said.
Wesley and his wife reportedly adopted Sherin two years ago from an orphanage in Bihar.
The foster father was previously arrested and charged with felony endangerment to a child and was placed on electronic ankle monitoring. He surrendered his passport as a condition of making bond on October 9. He was later released.
First-degree felony injury to a child is punishable by up to life imprisonment or from 5 to 99 years in prison, the police said.
The body of a small child was discovered in a culvert beneath a road with the help of search dogs. The body was found about one km from the house of Wesley.
Child Protective Services took custody of the Indian-American couple's other biological daughter shortly after Wesley was arrested.
Sini Mathews, the girl's mother does not face any charges. She was in the house at the time, but was reportedly asleep and unaware of what her husband was doing, the police had said earlier.
Earlier in the day, Wesley and Sini attended a court hearing to determine whether they could regain custody of their four-year-old biological daughter who was placed in protective custody after Sherin went missing.
But the judge at a Dallas County court decided that the older sibling of Sherin will remain in foster care for at least three more weeks.
The judge postponed custody hearing until November 13 to allow Wesley to hire a civil attorney.
The girl will remain in foster care until that hearing or until a judge orders a change in custody, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services.
"We do have the names of some relatives who have expressed interest in taking care of her," Gonzales said.
"We can begin looking into those relatives, but it is entirely up to the judge where she is placed," she said.
On Monday evening, people gathered near the culvert where the police found the body of a small child.
Many people expressed shock at the father's second arrest.
"Justice should be done for this little child," said Indian-American Anthony Sabu. "This little child has gone through the worst things in her life. She was abandoned when she was born and this family adopted her, and this is not what we expected," Sabu was quoted as saying by NBC News.