AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – The body of a toddler found in a culvert beneath a Texas road was likely that of a 3-year-old girl reported missing after her father said he punished her for not drinking her milk by making her stand alone outside at night, police said on Monday.
Police in Richardson, a suburb of Dallas, said the father, Wesley Mathews, 37, was arrested on a new charge of injury to a child, a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison.
Mathews has already been charged for suspected child endangerment for the treatment of his daughter, Sherin, who went missing in about two weeks ago.
He was released on bond at that time and voluntarily surrendered to police on the new charge on Monday and is now being held in jail on a $1 million bond, said police.
The body was found on Sunday with the help of search dogs about a half mile from the family’s house in Richardson.
“It is most likely her,” Richardson Police Sergeant Kevin Perlich said, referring to the missing child.
Mathews told police that he disciplined Sherin, who was born in India and adopted by the family, by making her stand near an alley behind their residence, according to an arrest affidavit.
The father told police he checked on her about 15 minutes later and she was gone, the affidavit said, adding he told police he had once seen coyotes in the alley.
About five hours after sending her outside, Mathews called police to report her missing, it said.
A phone call to Mathews’ attorney on Monday was not immediately returned.
“We are still awaiting a positive identification from the Dallas County Medical Examiners office for the child’s body found yesterday, believed to be Sherin Mathews,” the Richardson Police Department said in a statement.
Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; editing by Diane Craft