Ten-year-old Arnav Dhawan was found dead in his Frisco home on January 29. Less than 24 hours later, his mother, Pallavi Dhawan, was charged with murder.
During a Frisco Police press conference, officer Brad Merritt said Pallavi Dhawan had "nodded her head yes" when asked if she killed her son. The so-called confession stunned the community, but Pallavi's attorney, David Finn, says the case is far from over.
Finn, along with Pallavi's husband, Sumeet, refute the notion that Pallavi ever confessed.
"I know it looks suspicious, particularly through the American prism, but that doesn't mean Pallavi Dhawan is a murderer." — attorney David Finn
"That didn't happen. That's the biggest load of crock. She wasn't questioned at all," Finn says. "She was immediately handcuffed and put in a squad car."
Frisco police declined to comment for this story, pending further developments in the case.
"I have never encountered a situation where police held a press conference and charged someone with murder when there's no cause or manner of death established, nothing consistent with a crime and no visible injuries whatsoever," Finn says. "They jumped the gun, and they realize it."
Sumeet called police to the family home in the 15000 block of Mountain View Lane when he couldn't find his wife and son after returning from a business trip. While Sumeet was meeting with police, Pallavi arrived back home and told police that their son was in the bedroom.
Police found Arnav in the bathtub with a cloth wrapped around his neck and plastic bags floating in the water. Finn says the bags had been filled with ice to preserve Arnav's body until Sumeet returned home to give him "final blessing," a sacred rite in the Hindu faith that can only be performed by a male relative.
"It's complicated. It's nuanced. It's tragic," Finn says of Arnav's death and Pallavi's ensuing behavior. "I know it looks suspicious, particularly through the American prism, but that doesn't mean she's a murderer."
Another crucial element in the case, Finn says, is the fact that Arnav had a serious brain condition called microcephaly. Finn says the family has extensive documentation on Arnav's brain abnormality, which could explain his premature death.
"We have a litany of records showing that Pallavi has regularly been taking Arnav to the doctor and getting him treatment," says Finn, adding that Arnav also developed a brain cyst that was being closely monitored.
Part of the confusion about the case stems from the fact that Sumeet didn't initially tell police about Arnav's medical issues. "We bear a little bit of the blame there," Finn says.
Pallavi posted $50,000 bond and was able to attend services for her son, who was cremated. The Collin County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy January 30 but has not determined a cause of death. A toxicology report is pending.
"If the medical examiner isn't ruling out natural causes, what the hell are you doing holding a press conference?" Finn says. "At the end of the day, if the toxicology report is negative and there's no new evidence, I'm going to ask for a public apology from the Frisco Police Department."