Three mediums stand near the tree where a 3-year-old Richardson girl was last seen in the early morning hours of Oct. 7. They’re not here in any official capacity for the Richardson Police Department, but they’re determined to use their self-stated psychic "gifts" to find Sherin Mathews.
Like others who arrive this Sunday evening to visit the tree in an alleyway of the Richland Meadows neighborhood, they stare at the collection of flowers, letters, dolls and stuffed animals left for her. Buried within the pile, a sock monkey left behind by one of Mathews’ playmates reads, “I miss you at the playground.”
“She is in a dark place,” says one of the mediums who, like her two friends, wishes to remain anonymous. “She is frightened.”
The girl's father, 37-year-old Wesley Mathews, said he left her by a tree at 3 a.m. one week ago. Police said the tree was kitty-corner to the family's home, and this is the only large tree that fits that description. So this is the place where people created a shrine to the missing girl.
Mathews told police he left his daughter standing by the tree because she wouldn’t drink a glass of milk. The tree is about 100 feet away from the home, on the other side of a wooden fence. There's no clear view from the house to the tree. No street lights illuminate the alleyway. A nearby open field, divided by railroad tracks, is a sea of darkness when the sun sets.
At 3:15 a.m., Mathews reportedly went to check on his daughter, but she was gone. He told police he looked around but couldn’t find her, claiming he planned to continue his search when the sun rose. In the meantime, he told police, he decided to do laundry.
Police said he did not mention that the family’s 2013 Maroon Acura MDX SUV pulled out of the garage at 4 a.m. and returned home about an hour later.
Five hours after the girl disappeared, Mathews called police and reported his daughter missing. An Amber Alert soon followed, as did a child endangerment charge against her father. He paid the $250,000 bail the next day, surrendered his passport and strapped a monitor to his ankle as conditions of his release.
Sini Mathews told police she was at home sleeping when her daughter disappeared. Although she hasn’t been charged with a crime, the mother hired Plano attorney Kent Starr to represent her.
“She does not know her whereabouts,” Starr told reporters Wednesday afternoon. “All she wants is her daughter to be returned.”
Law enforcement officials searched the neighborhood with dogs and helicopters. They collected security footage and electronics and towed the Mathews’ three vehicles. An FBI evidence recovery team searched the family home Tuesday night.
Richardson police released an update Friday evening, asking businesses and residents within a 30-minute drive of the 900 block of Sunningdale to check their surveillance footage.
“It’s important this check be conducted before a system overwrite may take place,” police wrote in an Oct. 13 Facebook post.
Richardson police now claim the Mathews are no longer cooperating. Child Protective Services removed Sherin Mathews’ 4-year-old sister. A CPS spokesperson told reporters that personnel had been to the Mathews’ home before the 3-year-old’s disappearance but wouldn’t say why.
The police are not alone in their search. Several people visiting the tree claim to have gone out in small groups since news broke about the 3-year-old’s disappearance.
Omair Siddiqi has been searching for her with nearly a dozen other volunteers throughout the week. He plans to meet with people Monday afternoon to search for her at White Rock Lake.
Many people have been seeking answers on the Richardson Police Department’s Facebook page. “How do you know this happened [on Oct.] 7 and not before?” asked one Facebook commenter. “I’m wondering if something happened to her several days prior,” wrote another.
Siddiqi says he and a few others had a weird feeling about a nearby cemetery and decided to go there Friday afternoon. In a Facebook Live video posted Friday evening, he explained that they drove among the headstones at Restland Memorial Park, which is about a 2 1/2-minute drive from the Mathews home.
“Police are still trying to figure out where [their vehicle] was between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.,” he said. “They’ve asked for the public’s assistance.”
The public has responded by forming into small groups to try to find her, searching surveillance videos and creating a “Where is Sherin Mathews” Facebook page.
“Authorities at the NGO in Bihar’s Nalanda, where three-year-old Saraswati [Sherin] stayed before she was adopted by a US-based couple [the Mathews] more than a year ago, recall that the girl was not stubborn and drank her morning milk with the other children without any fuss,” according to the newspaper The Indian Express. The information is posted on the Facebook page.
Siddiqi’s team of volunteers caused a stir on social media as they searched a creek with a former service canine named Gypsy. In a Facebook Live video, they found hogties, a big yellow tarp and a black glove for the left hand. Then the German shepherd led them to what they called “the most gruesome part.”
“We got little girl underwear with blood,” said one of the volunteers, who identified herself as Nicole. “We’ve got toddler black bottoms. Are they pajama bottoms? We don’t know. ... But it was just enough to make it look suspicious.”
“When you looked at it, you could see it was almost like a shrine,” Nicole’s husband, Scott said in the video. “It was very eerie down there.”
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They say they called detectives.
Siddiqi hosted a candlelight vigil for Sherin Mathews later that evening next to the tree. After the vigil, he said, they began chanting, “Where is Sherin?” in front of the front of the Mathews’ home, driving someone to leave.
Parents continue to arrive at the tree with their small children, who appear to be about the same age as 3-year-old Sherin. They place teddy bears on the growing memorial and linger in front of it. Siddiqi says one of the volunteers took a flyer with the girl's picture, framed it and placed it near the center of the growing memorial.
“We need answers,” Siddiqi says. “What the hell happened?”