A look at Sherin Mathews' life in India

WFAA's Alisha Ebrahimji & Jobin Panicker in India sharing what they've learned about Sherin Mathews' life before she was adopted, brought to Dallas. http://on.wfaa.com/2gREfRY

It's been one week since 3-year-old Sherin Mathews' body was found in a culvert not far from her Richardson home. Sherin's adoptive father, Wesley Mathews, admitted to removing the child's body and faces a felony injury to a child charge.

A cause of death is still pending for the child, and many questions still surround the investigation.

Sherin's body was released from the medical examiner's office over the weekend and taken to a funeral home, but there are no details on funeral arrangements or how she will be honored.

Sherin was adopted from an orphanage in Nalanda, a city in the eastern state of India's Bihar in 2016. Sherin lived in the orphanage since she was an infant. At the time she was named Saraswati.

WFAA has sent a team of journalists to India to learn more about Sherin's life as Saraswati, before she was adopted and brought to Dallas as Sherin.

Starting Wednesday, this article will detail the team's entire journey.

Wednesday 11/1/17: Nalanda, India

We set out bright and early on a mission to make it to the city of Nalanda. Nalanda is a city inside the state of Bihar and is about 67 kilometers which ended up being a two hour road trip for the team.

On the way to Nalanda, we called Babita Kumari, Sherin's caretaker at the orphanage and told her we were on our way to the area.

She hasn't appeared on camera for any interviews about Sherin so we were grateful for the opportunity to interview her inside her home.

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Sherin was abandoned in the area and was found at a young age by India's equivalency of a Salvation Army worker. She was then brought to Kumari's adoption agency or in other words, an ashram.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the photo hanging on Kumari's wall directly facing her desk...it was a photo of baby Sherin with a beaded garland wrapped around it. In the Hindu religion, as a sign of respect and as a way to honor someone, a garland is placed on a photo of a loved one once they have passed away. 

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Kumari explained that the children she used to take care of at her adoption agency never knew a real mother or father. This was especially true for Sherin -- she used to call Kumari "mumma."

She says it was very difficult for her to let Sherin leave with her new adoptive parents, Sini and Wesley Mathews but at the time she thought it was for the best. Kumari talked about how sending her to America meant better opportunities for her and a chance to be provided for better than she was in India.

We showed photos of Sherin throughout her short life to Kumari and asked her what emotions she had as she looked at them. All she could say was that looking at the progression of photos taken at various points in her life, Kumari said she sensed a "pattern of sadness" on Sherin's face.

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Kumari expressed her interest in speaking with Wesley Mathews, Sherin's adoptive father. She said if given the opportunity she would probably end up slapping him.

"This could have been avoided, she said. "Saraswati [Sherin] should have been alive."

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After visiting Kumari in her village, we went to see the ashram where Sherin lived. The top two floors of the building were used for the ashram's purpose but now it's completely residential.

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He showed us where Sherin and the other children used to play and said he always supported Kumari and applauded her for the work she did for the children.

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Naman Mishra, a journalist with News Bihar has been accompanying us throughout our time in India. Mishra says though what happened to Sherin is tragic, the community in Bihar has not showed the same outcry that community members in Dallas and throughout the nation have.

On Thursday we plan on finding an answer to the question, "What now?" What happens to the adoption process and relations between the United States and India. Kumari says things will definitely change, but how? We're going to talk to a teacher at a local orphanage and leaders in the community about how things will change.

Have a question or want to follow along on social? Tweet the team: @alishaebrahimji@jobinpnews and @brandonmowry -- or follow @wfaa8 on Instagram -- for updates as we gather them.

Click here to see where we've been so far.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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