23/10/2017 11:22 AM IST | Updated 23/10/2017 11:48 AM IST

Abandoned At Birth, Missing At 3, Now Suspected Dead: The Heartbreaking Story Of Saraswati, AKA Sherin Mathews

Sent out to stand in an alleyway outside her home as punishment for refusing to drink milk at 3 AM.

Dallas News

A three-year-old girl adopted from an orphanage in India went missing on 7 October after her adoptive father sent her out to stand in an alleyway outside their Richardson, Texas, home as punishment for refusing to drink milk at 3 AM. Dallas police have now said that they've found the body of a small child that is most likely that of Sherin Mathews.

Dallas News quoted Sgt. Kevin Perlich as saying that the "indications are that it is most likely her, however, we have not had positive ID. So until we have a positive identification we are not going to say it is Sherin."

As people gathered at a memorial for Sherin with soft toys and candles, and the medical examiner probed the cause of death of the child who is yet to be identified as her, a heartbreaking story of misfortune and neglect of a little girl, given up at birth, has emerged.

Named Saraswati, after the Indian goddess of learning, the baby was found dumped in the bushes near the now-defunct Mother Teresa Anath Seva Sansthan, an NGO, in Nalanda. Passersby brought her to manager Babita Kumari who raised her until she was 2.5 years of age, when Wesley Mathews and his wife Sini, came to India to adopt her.

"She was 2.5 years old when the NRI couple adopted her on June 23 last year in a small ceremony which was attended by the then Superintendent of Police Ashish Kumar. All the legal formalities were completed before we transferred Saraswati's custody to the couple," News18 quoted Babita as saying.

Babita remembers Saraswati, who was renamed Sherin, as a very charming child "who used to smile all the time."

The version that Wesley Mathews, 37, allegedly gave to the police is that on the night Sherin went missing he put her out in an alley near their house as punishment for refusing to drink her milk at about 3 am.

When he went to check on Sherin about 15 minutes later, she was nowhere to be found. He told the police he decided to wait until morning to continue searching for her, or for her to return on her own, according to Dallas News. He did laundry as he waited for sunrise. His wife Sini was reportedly asleep during this incident.

Dallas News reported that Sherin was malnourished and did not have the language skills of a typical 3-year-old. A massive search operation, involving cadaver canines and helicopters, was launched to track the missing girl.

Grief and disbelief poured in on social media for the girl. A Facebook page — where is Sherin Mathews — was put up and Twitter users asked searing questions regarding the role of the parents in the little girl's ordeal.