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DALLAS — The remains of a young child found in a drainage tunnel last weekend were confirmed Tuesday to be those of a missing North Texas girl, the medical examiner's office said.
Officials said dental records helped to identify 3-year-old Sherin Mathews. Her father, Wesley Mathews, who adopted the girl from India last year, was arrested Monday after changing his story about what happened, police said.
He initially reported Sherin missing on Oct. 7 after telling police she disappeared when he sent her outside at 3 a.m. as punishment for not drinking her milk. Authorities said he waited five hours to report her missing.
But he later told police another version of events: He tried to get the girl to drink milk in the garage. As he assisted her, she began to choke, according to an affidavit.
Mathews said that she was coughing and breathing slow, and when he no longer felt she had a pulse, he removed her body from the home, police said. The girl's cause of death was still unknown Tuesday.
Mathews, 37, was charged with first-degree felony injury to a child and was being held on $1 million bond, said Police Sgt. Kevin Perlich of Richardson, Texas.
Authorities say those charges could be updated and more arrests are possible as they continue to investigate the case.
Previously, Mathews was free on bond after being charged with abandoning or endangering a child. According to police, Mathews said the girl was developmentally disabled and malnourished when he and his wife adopted her, and that they had to put her on a special diet that included feeding her whenever she was awake, including in the middle of the night, to help her gain weight.
Mathews told police that after doing an initial search once he realized his daughter was missing, he went inside and did laundry while waiting for her to come home or for daylight so that he could continue looking.
He and his wife, Sini Mathews, attended a court hearing earlier Monday to determine whether they could regain custody of their 4-year-old biological daughter, who was placed in protective custody after her sister went missing. The judge postponed the hearing until Nov. 13 to give Wesley Mathews time to hire a civil attorney, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services.
The girl will remain in foster care at least until that hearing or until a judge orders a change in custody.
"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."
Authorities using dogs to search for Sherin found the remains Sunday in a drainage tunnel about a half-mile from the family's home.
Rafael De La Garza, an attorney for Wesley Mathews, told The Dallas Morning News after Monday's hearing that his client was "mourning the death of his child," but he didn't address the criminal charges. De La Garza did not immediately reply to a phone message from The Associated Press.
Police said they believe Sini Mathews was sleeping when the girl went missing and was unaware of the alleged punishment.
Investigators have asked neighbors and area businesses to check their video surveillance cameras for footage of a maroon Acura SUV owned by the Mathews family that they believe left the home between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Oct. 7.
Kent Starr, an attorney for Sini Mathews, said that as part of Wesley Mathews' bond agreement, the couple cannot live together. Starr told The Dallas Morning News that his client is seeking to regain custody of her other daughter and that she has cooperated with the police in trying to help identify Sherin's body.