In a new twist in the Sherin Mathews' case, US child protection authorities have said they have found "insufficient evidence" to confirm that the deceased 3-year-old Indian girl was physically abused by her adoptive parents and blamed "an unknown perpetrator" for her injuries, prior to her adoption.
Sherin was found dead in mysterious circumstances in a culvert in Richardson, in suburban Dallas, Texas, on October 22, two weeks after her Indian-American foster parents reported her missing. Her decomposed body was found by a cadaver dog.
Her adoptive father, Wesley Mathews originally told police he had left Sherin outside the home at 3 am to punish her for not drinking her milk. Then he changed his statement and said Sherin had choked on her milk while he tried to feed her in the garage.
He also admitted the family had gone out to dinner that night and left Sherin home alone.
Wesley was indicted on charges of capital murder and tampering with evidence. He now faces life in prison or the death penalty.
His wife, Sini was indicted on a charge of abandoning a child, which holds a punishment that ranges from two to 20 years in prison with a fine up to USD 10,000.
A Child Protective Services (CPS) report released on Tuesday detailed the agency's investigation into allegation that Sherin's adoptive parents abused her months before she died, WFAA, an ABC-affiliated television station reported.
The report detailed a CPS investigation from March 2017.
The CPS said it found "insufficient evidence to determine if the deceased child was physically abused by her mother."
"An unknown perpetrator was confirmed for the physical abuse...which may have happened prior to her adoption," the report said.
"The allegation of physical neglect of the deceased child by her parents was not confirmed," the report said.
Dr Suzanne Dakil, a pediatrician, testified during a custody hearing for Sherin's sister had said that she was the one who called the CPS in March last year with concerns that Sherin was being abused by her parents.
"I tried, actually, very hard to find another good explanation, and I didn't have one," the doctor said in court, noting that she concluded Sherin's injuries had occurred after her time in India.
Sherin was been hospitalised in February 2017 after her adoptive mother "noticed swelling around [Sherin's] right shoulder," the report said.
Sini reported that Sherin had fallen on a slide at the park, the report said. Doctors diagnosed Sherin with a skin infection and fractures on her shoulders, and X-rays revealed a previous injury, a fracture of her left leg, the report said.
"There were concerns that the child's injuries were not consistent with the explanation given and that the child had been physically abused," the report said.
The CPS interviewed Sherin's parents, who "denied harming the child," the report said.
Sini said she had taken Sherin to a park, where she fell and her mother tried to grab her arm to break the fall.
Wesley told investigators that Sherin slipped and fell while on monkey bars at the park, the report said.
When asked about Sherin's previous arm fracture, Sini told CPS officials that Sherin fell while jumping on the couch with her sibling, the report said.
The CPS contacted medical officials, who "stated there were no concerns about the previous injury because the story was consistent with the child falling off the couch."
The medical officials said the fractures in Sherin's shoulder injury were "questionable," the report said.
The report said "although there were no concerns regarding the child's previous injuries, the new injuries were not consistent with the explanation given."
The issue of Sherin's weight was also raised in the investigation.
Both parents said Sherin had health problems when they adopted her from India, including being underweight.
Doctors who had treated Sherin "denied having concerns about abuse and neglect while the child was with her adoptive parents" and that Sherin "was in better health and at a better weight following her adoption," the report said.
Law enforcement authorities investigated the report but did not file charges.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)