The helicopters are out in force again. The whir of propellers has become so commonplace since the morning of October 7th that the sound has faded into the background, a white noise machine only heard when the power’s cut.
Today it’s two news helicopters, and they’ve hovered over a field a couple miles due west of my house from mid-morning until nightfall, a field I’ve driven by daily since 3-year-old Sherin Mathews disappeared. I pass by her neighborhood, an enclave of McMansions one subdivision northwest of where I live, each time I mail a letter or go to the grocery store. If I look south while crossing the railroad tracks I can see the tree beside which Sherin’s adoptive father apparently made her stand at 3AM as punishment for not drinking her milk. It stands maybe fifty feet from the track, clearly visible from a busy street, in an area coyotes often roam. People leave flowers and balloons and hold prayer vigils, though the police dogs have all but proved she was never there.
It doesn’t matter that the smiling little girl seen in the news reports isn’t white or that she was born in another country. It doesn’t matter that she has developmental issues or that she has a limited ability to speak. She’s the community’s daughter now and the air grows heavier with each passing day she isn’t found. Things like this don’t happen in this area of Dallas, at least not in the twenty years I’ve lived here.
We’re all holding our breath.
When police reported one of the family’s three cars had been missing between 4 and 5 AM on the morning of Sherin’s disappearance, I gave up all hope she’d be found alive. “That proves it,” I said to my pre-teen daughter. “He killed her and removed the evidence.”
“You’re jumping to conclusions, Mama,” she said. “Isn’t it possible that he searched near the house, didn’t find her, and then took the car out to look?”
I’ve run the toddler-gauntlet twice and know that any three-year-old left alone outside at night would scream loud enough to wake the neighbors. Any father, upon finding his child gone, would at the very least wake his wife, who reportedly slept through the whole ordeal. He’d call the police and pound on neighbors’ doors, organizing a search party. He would not, as he claimed, do laundry and wait for her to turn back up. For five hours.
I bit my tongue, though, because my daughter asked a valid question. It WAS possible he had an innocent reason to leave the house, just as he had a plausible reason to attempt to give the girl milk in the middle of the night. (Her developmental issues required her to eat often.)
My daughter and I had both heard every publicly known detail of the father’s story. One of us was willing to suspend disbelief enough to objectively consider all possible motives. The other will not easily be convinced the man does not deserve to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
As a mother, I’m horrified by what has likely happened to this child.
As a writer, though, I’m intrigued. (more…)
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