Sherin Mathews, who has developmental issues and limited verbal communication skills, was last seen outside her family's backyard in Richardson city in Texas on October 7 after her Indian-American father Wesley Mathews upbraided her and sent her alone outside late at night as punishment for not finishing her milk.
The Richardson Police announced that they discovered the remains of a child in a tunnel beneath a road, expressing apprehension that it was "most likely" of Sherin. They, however, did not confirm the identity.
The body of the toddler was found about half a mile from the house of her adoptive parents Wesley and Sini Mathews.
The body was found in a culvert beneath a road around 11 AM (local time) with the help of search dogs. Police have not released any details about how the child died.
The body was found in a culvert beneath a road, Sergant Kevin Perlich, spokesman for the police department, told reporters. An arrest has not been made in connection with the discovery of the body.
While a medical examiner has yet to see the child's body and make a positive identification, Perlich said, "It is most likely" Sherin Mathews, and her parents have been notified of the discovery. The cause of death has yet to be determined.
The area has been blocked off as a crime scene.
The identification process was underway. The medical examiner was working to determine the cause of death, he said.
The child's foster father, Wesley, 37, was arrested on October 8 on a charge of abandoning or endangering a child. A day later, he was released from custody after posting USD 250,000 bond.
As per an arrest-warrant affidavit, Mathews, hailing from Kerala, told police that he sent Sherin outside and told her to stand next to a large tree at around 3 AM October 7.
Mathews admitted to police that he knew coyotes or wild dogs had been seen in the alley, the affidavit said.
Some 15 minutes later, Mathews allegedly went to check on Sherin but did not find her.
After looking around for her, he said he then went inside to do laundry and decided to wait until morning to continue searching or for her to return on her own, police sergeant Kevin Perlich said.
Police were not alerted to her disappearance until about five hours later.
Child Protective Services took custody of their other biological daughter, age 4, shortly after Wesley was arrested.
The Mathews reportedly adopted Sherin two years ago from an orphanage in Bihar.
Investigators combed Sherin's neighborhood and surrounding area with K-9 teams, drones and helicopters and executed a search warrant at the Mathews' home on October 10, police said.
Police had also taken DNA swabs, receipts, grass and other debris from three vehicles belonging to the Mathews family.
The Richardson Police Department said on October 12 that one of the Mathews' vehicles had left the residence the morning Sherin went missing, between 4 and 5 am, between the time Mathews said Sherin disappeared and the time he called police.
Sini, the girl's mother does not face any charges. She was in the house at the time, but was reportedly asleep and unaware of what her husband was doing, police had said earlier.
Sherin's case also caught the attention of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
"We are deeply concerned about the missing child. Indian Embassy in US is actively involved and they keep me informed," Ms Swaraj tweeted on October 19.
"We are closely monitoring the Sherin Mathews case. We have established contact with the community and authorities," India's Consul General in Houston, Anupam Ray had tweeted.