Collin County medical examiner rules death of Frisco boy undetermined

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by MARJORIE OWENS, JOBIN PANICKER, & CARLA WADE

WFAA

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 6 at 10:23 PM

FRISCO — The Collin County medical examiner has ruled the death of a 10-year-old boy found dead in a bathtub undetermined, but also said he most likely died due to “natural disease."

Police found the body of Arnav Dhawan inside his Frisco home in January.

Sumeet Dhawan, the boy's father, called authorities when he returned home from a business trip to find both his wife and son missing.

Once police came to the scene, the boy's mother, 38-year-old Pallavi Dhawan, also appeared at the house. She briefly talked with her husband and then pointed police toward the room where her son's body was found wrapped in a towel.

Following the discovery, Mrs. Dhawan was arrested. In an affidavit, police said she nodded her head "yes" when asked at the scene if she killed her son.

However, soon after, Mrs. Dhawan's husband, lawyer and many in the community spoke out in support of the mother. According to Mr. Dhawan, his wife's actions before the boy's body was found was part of their Hindu religious customs.

The husband said his wife placed the boy in a tub with ice so that he could give last rites upon his return. Mr. Dhawan also said his wife was in shock when police questioned her at the scene and she nodded.

Thursday, her attorney said the report alluded to what the family told police from the beginning; that the boy suffered from a rare seizure disorder.

“They’ve been investigating for over a month, said attorney David Finn, "and came up with, 'We think he had a seizure in the middle of the night, which triggered a heart attack all as a result of a brain cyst that was preexisting.'”

The lawyer representing the Dhawan family has asked police to return medical papers that document his health problems.

Sumeet Dhawan said Thursday that he and his wife felt somewhat vindicated by the report.

“With the report out now, we are hopeful that the police will see through it," Mr. Dhawan said. “We hope that everybody sees through it that Arnav had all these medical conditions, and due to some of these conditions, led to his unfortunate demise.”

An autopsy was done the day after Arnav's body was found and two days after the medical examiner's office received his medical records from Frisco police. While Sumeet Dhawan did not criticize the department’s efforts, his wife’s attorney did.

“There’s no sign of any trauma,” Finn said. “Somebody jumped the gun. No one’s perfect, but they ought to go to the same podium they had the press conference accusing her of murder and say that there’s no evidence that this lady hurt her son.”

Mrs. Dhawan posted a $50,000 bond and was released.

Finn said he believes the case will be handed over to the Collin County District Attorney's Office, who may decide to put the case before a grand jury. The case has not yet been given to the district attorney’s office and a Frisco police spokesperson said the case is still an open investigation.

“I think the grand jurors would take one look at this case and determine that Arnav needs to rest in peace, and that my client did nothing to cause his death or hurt him in any way," Finn said. “There is no way a prosecutor is going to want to touch this case with a 10-foot pole.”

While the medical examiner’s report did not point to any signs of foul play, it said several factors complicated the examiner’s ability to determine the cause and manner of death.

Arnav’s medical history was not revealed until after his autopsy. The examiner also said that Arnav’s organs and tissues had decomposed, making a diagnosis of natural disease difficult. It also pointed to the cultural and religious differences that may have led Arnav’s mother to undress, bathe, and redress his body before putting him in a bathtub fully clothed and surrounded by ice packs after she found him unresponsive.

Mr. Dhawan said his wife placed the boy in a tub with ice so that he could give last rites upon his return in accordance with their religious beliefs. He also said his wife was in shock when police questioned her at the scene.

The assistant county medical examiner wrote in the conclusion, “The unusual circumstances cannot be ignored, thus raising the possibility of an unnatural cause of death.”

Dhawan said his wife is inconsolable and while he hopes that police will drop the case against her, the grief of losing their only son supersedes everything.

“All of this is secondary. Our son is not going to come back,” he said.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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