The 2017 death of three-year-old Sherin Mathews had not only shaken public conscience in the US, where she was taken by her adoptive parents of Indian origin, but also led the orphanage in Bihar, which had given her up for adoption, to suspect foul play.
Less than three years later, the fears expressed by Babita Kumari, the secretary of the now defunct Mother Teresa Orphanage and Childrens Home in Nalanda district, have been vindicated with a Dallas court in the US awarding life sentence to the toddler's adoptive father on Wednesday.
"I want to speak to the foster parents of Saraswati, who was later rechristened as Sherin as I suspect that she may have become dispensable to the couple as they now have a child of their own," Ms Kumari had told PTI in October, 2017, nearly three weeks after the girl was reported missing from her Texas home.
Shocking details emerged during the trial where the doctor, who performed the autopsy on Sherin, told jurors that maggots had eaten her internal organs when the body, which was recovered from under a culvert, reached the morgue.
The orphanage was shut down on September 15, 2017 on the direction of the Nalanda district administration over alleged financial irregularities.
According to Ms Kumari, who is now untraceable, Sherin was adopted by Wesley Mathews and his wife Sini, both natives of Kerala, on June 23, 2016 when she was a little under two years of age.
The news of the girl's death under mysterious circumstances had sent shock waves in Bihar, prompting Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi to have a word with the then Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj.
The then District Magistrate of Nalanda, Thyagarajan, had also ordered an inquiry into whether the procedure for adoption was duly followed. The inquiry found "nothing amiss".
"As many as eight children adopted from our home are living in the US. Some have also gone to countries like Indonesia, South Africa and Spain. In addition, more than 100 kids from our centre have been adopted by families living across the country. Never have we heard about any of them meeting such a horrible end," a livid Ms Kumari had said.
Ms Kumari had also rejected Wesley Mathews's claim that the girl suffered from disabilities.
"He has spoken of alleged disabilities the girl suffered from but has failed to produce even one document to show that the child, who was perfectly healthy when she was with us, had been treated for any of those defects," Ms Kumari had said.
Founded in 2011, the orphanage had received Sherin in February, 2015 when she was just seven-month-old.
Her Indian-American foster father was sentenced to life in jail for her death by a judge in Dallas on Wednesday, in the case that attracted international attention.
Mathews, 39, had pleaded guilty on Monday to the lesser charge of causing injury to a child. He was originally charged with capital murder by authorities in the US state of Texas.
Sherin's tragic death had prompted the Indian government to further tighten the adoption rules.
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