Houston: The body of a three-year-old Indian girl, who disappeared from her Indian-American foster parents home in Richardson, has been released by the Dallas County medical examiner's office, though it declined to say to whom.
Sherin Mathews, who went missing on October 7, was found dead in a culvert under a road about a half-mile from her home on October 22.
Richardson community is mourning the tragic loss and want to handle her funeral. Sherin's death has become an international point of discussion and has raised several questions on the process of adoption.
Sherin was adopted by the Indian-American couple, Wesley Mathews and Sini Mathews, from an orphanage in India last year.
Wesley, 37, the Indian-American father of Sherin, has been charged with first-degree felony injury to a child due to a conflicting statement to police.
He 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.
Later, Wesley voluntarily told the police that his daughter choked while drinking milk and he removed her body from the house as he "believed she had died".
Police are still investigating how Sherin died and how long her body had been in the drainage ditch.
Thousands of heartbroken community members are mourning for the child as if she was from their own family.
The tree where Wesley initially said he had left Sherin for not finishing milk and the culvert where her body was later found by cadaver dogs have become memorial sites. People have been visiting these places and putting stuffed toys and flowers everyday and praying for the baby to rest in peace.
Due to wind and sleet, they have been covering and safeguarding the memorial sites.
"We got to the memorials in time and covered the areas using tarps at the tree and culvert," said Omair Siddiqi in one of his Facebook posts. Many people donated their blankets, sheets and tarps to keep both places dry and safe.
An online petition, created by 23-year-old Siddiqi, had requested authorities to release her body and allow the people to give her a proper burial that she deserves. The petition was signed by more than 5000 people till yesterday.
Some people say they signed the petition to keep Sherin's body in the US. It's unclear how the rumour started that Sherin's body would be sent back to her native India, but there's no indication that's true.
Council General of India in Houston, Anupam Ray, who has been monitoring the case from day one, told PTI that the Consulate has not received any such request.
"We have not been approached by anyone. All mortal remains being taken to India require a no objection from the Consulate," Ray said.
In a case like this, Sherin's mother would be the one who would make the arrangement for her burial because her father is in jail and unable to do so. The only way someone else would get the rights to make arrangements for her body is if her mother appoints someone else to do so, Kurtz said.
Siddiqui said the petition is about asking Sherin's family to let the community participate in her funeral.
A neighbour said she feels as though she lost one of her own children, even though she didn't know Sherin or her family. "I signed the petition to let the family know that if they don't want her body, it's perfectly fine because we the community can handle it and give her the proper and respectful burial she deserves."
Earlier, another online petition by community leader Father Thomas Ambalaveli demanded that the body of Sherin should not be given to her parents.
"Please allow us to conduct the memorial and burial of our (community baby)," said Father Thomas. (PTI)