Frisco Cops Need to Release the Dhawan Death Note Now, or We Have to Guess Why

Forgive me if I restate something so obvious you had it figured out days ago without me, but I just want to make sure we all get why the note found by police in the Dhawan case in Frisco is so important. We need to know what the note says about the deaths of Pallavi and Sumeet Dhawan and what it says about the Frisco Police Department.

See also: Ten-year-old Arnav Dhawa's Autopsy Done While Police Sat on His Medical Records

In this situation, the police story has always suffered from a serious case of wobbliness. I told you last March that the autopsy of 10-year-old Arnav Dhawan, whose body was found under ice in a bathtub in the family home, was carried out by a medical examiner who was totally unaware of the boy's long history of life-threatening disease.

Working with a badly decomposed corpse, assistant Collin County Medical Examiner Dr. Lynn A. Salzberger found no evidence the boy's death was caused by anything but natural causes, but she was unable to pinpoint a proximate cause. She told me she found out days later that Arnav had suffered from a smaller than normal skull and a brain cyst, both life-threatening, only by viewing a story about him on TV after she had completed her findings.

That medical history was in police hands at the time. Frisco police told me they simply hadn't found it yet in the pile of seized evidence. But David Finn, lawyer for Pallavi Dhawan, charged with murder, told me the medical documents were explicitly listed in an inventory of seized evidence that had to be compiled as the evidence was gathered.

Frisco police say they know Pallavi Dhawan, the mother, murdered her son because they asked her if she did it the night they were called to her home, and she nodded yes. Finn says that conversation never took place. The police equipment that should have recorded sound and video of the interview happened to be on the blink at that moment, police say.

Even without a recording to confirm it, the conversation sounds odd. If they asked and she nodded yes, would someone not have said, "Is that a yes? Do you understand the question? Are you telling us you took your son's life?" But they left it at a nod, which appears to be the only evidence of guilt they have found.

The Dhawans were found dead last week in their comfortable suburban home. Frisco police say the mother was slated to take a lie detector test. They also have said the mother, who had left a promising career to care full-time for the boy, was suffering from mental problems.

Let's take the first possibility here: The mother was in a bad mental condition, possibly brought on by the stress of being her son's full-time caregiver. She did something that materially contributed to or straight-up caused his death. She was afraid of the lie detector test. Some sort of murder-suicide ensued in which she and her husband, Sumeet, both died.

Now let's take the other possibility. Police investigators called to the scene last January 29 did a lousy job on the interview, impeded by a culture gap and their own lack of sophistication. As soon as the case got back to the station house they knew it was lousy. They decided to sweat the couple, deliberately delaying the referrals to the grand jury and the district attorney as long as possible, in hope something would break. And finally something did break. The parents.

If it's the second case, what would that mean? Would it mean the cops killed the parents? I don't know about you, but I wouldn't go that far. Not yet. It would mean the cops screwed up. I just don't happen to believe we can tell cops and doctors and firemen to save our lives for us and then tell them if they make one mistake we're going to destroy them. You and I screw up. We don't get sent to prison every time. Imputing willful complicity to the police would be different, another long piece down the road, Case No. 3.

But Case No. 2 means the community of Frisco needs to bring about major changes in the police department, probably in recruiting, diversity and training. We don't know yet if that's true.

Right now the most suspect behavior the Frisco police can possibly engage in is sitting on that note. It's obvious what most of us will assume: They're sitting on the note because it makes them look bad, because it confirms my second case, the one where the parents were innocent but the police sweated them anyway.

So here's where it stands. As long as the note remains secret, I'm putting my own money on Case No. 2. If they release it and it does not lend any kind of credible credence to Case No. 2, then we have to reconsider Case No. 1. Right now it's all on that note.

I am sure you will agree with me if I say that all of us hope sincerely and devoutly that the same thing will not happen to the note that happened to the medical records and the recording equipment. In such an event, then, yeah, we go straight to Case No. 3.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze