Confusion follows Frisco boy's death; culture clash may be a factor

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by TANYA EISERER

Bio | Email | Follow: @tanyaeiserer

WFAA

Posted on February 4, 2014 at 5:50 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 5 at 4:04 PM

FRISCO –– The husband of a Frisco woman accused of murdering their 10-year-old son has publicly declared her innocence, saying religious customs are the reason she acted the way she did.

Sumeet Dhawan said his wife, a former NASA computer programmer, put Arnav's body on ice to await his return from an out-of-town business trip so he could deliver last rites.

That’s quite possible, says Nikhil Moro, an expert on Hindu culture and associate professor of journalism at the University of North Texas. Hindu religious customs typically require that the closest male relative deliver last rites to allow the “soul to move to its next vehicle or next body.”

“So to the extent that cremation marks the end of the current body, I think the mother might have waited … for the father,” Moro said. 

However, nothing in the tradition precludes her from reporting the boy’s death to the authorities, he added. So far, the Collin County medical examiner has not been able to determine a cause of death. Authorities are awaiting the results of toxicology testing. 

David Finn, the Dallas-based attorney representing Sumeet’s wife, Pallavi, said he has been told by the medical examiner that Arnav did not drown, nor did he have any visible injuries.  

Pallavi Dhawan posted $50,000 bond and was released. 

She was arrested last Wednesday after her son’s body was found in the bathtub of the family’s Frisco home. Finn said the boy’s body had been in the tub for several days.

Authorities have said that Pallavi Dhawan was asked if she had “killed the child and the wife nodded her head, ‘yes.’’’

Moro questions the importance that police are placing on the woman’s nod.

“It is possible that she meant to say 'yes' when she nodded, but did not understand the question or the nature of the question,” he said. “Clearly communication issues are at the heart of misunderstandings, and those issues can crop up from -- for example -- not being able to precisely understand the meaning of a nod.”

Pallavi’s husband said his wife was in a state of shock and did not confess to killing their son. A police spokesman said he was present when officers first spoke with his wife. 

“I asked her what happened,” Sumeet Dhawan said. “She said, ‘Arnav is no more.’”

He also has said that their son suffered from a rare neurological problem that caused seizures. He and his wife’s attorney have demanded that Frisco police return records documenting his son’s medical problems.

“She can never ever hurt that child,” Dhawan said.

E-mail teiserer@wfaa.com

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