Police Say a Frisco Mom Confessed to Killing Her 10-Year-Old Son, But It's Not That Simple

Categories: Crime

PallaviDhawan.jpg
Pallavi Dhawan
At first blush, the death last week of Frisco 10-year-old Arnav Dhawan seemed like another one of those too-gruesome-to-contemplate, too-compelling-to-turn-away stories of child abuse that flash across the local headlines with disturbing regularity.

According to police, the boy's mother, 38-year-old Pallavi Dhawan, confessed to murdering her son while her husband was away on a business trip. The boy's body was found on Wednesday evening in a dry bathtub with a cloth wrapped around him up to his neck, surrounded by plastic bags.

"Officers asked if she had killed the child, and Mrs. Dhawan nodded her head yes," Frisco PD Sergeant Brad Merritt said at a press conference on Thursday.

But other details suggest the murder case might not be the slam-dunk it seems. Not long after Frisco PD's press conference, Dhawan's attorney, David Finn, said she hadn't in fact confessed. The nod police interpreted to mean "yes" actually meant "no," the gesture being more nuanced in Indian culture than in America.

A similar cultural explanation explains why Arnav's body was kept in the bathtub for multiple days: She was preserving the body with ice until her husband returned home.

"It's a big deal to say goodbye because in Hindu/Indian culture, if [a] father does not say goodbye in person then the soul does not rest in peace," Finn told WFAA. "It's called 'giving of last rites.' [Pallavi Dhawan] said if [her] husband did not say goodbye to [Arnav], his soul would 'be here forever.'"

There are other factors that cast doubt on Dhawan's guilt. The boy had myriad medical problems, including microcephaly and a brain cyst, which could have contributed to his death and jibes with the failure of the initial autopsy to find any definitive cause. A toxicology report is pending.

And Sumeet Dhawan seems to have never doubted his wife's innocence, offering a vociferous defense to police, the media and prosecutors.

Once the toxicology results are in, Dhawan's case will go to a grand jury, which will weigh whether a dead body and a possibly misinterpreted head-nod are enough for a murder charge.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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54 comments
rawrecordsinc
rawrecordsinc

The “race” card? Please, that’s sooo 1990’s. Ladies & gentleman, I present to you the “culture card”. I’m an Indian man born and raised in the US for 35 plus years, and I am telling you right now that when a woman of Indian descent who used to work for NASA (of all places) claims that she shook her head from side to side to indicate that she meant “no” when the police asked her if she killed her son, its complete B.S. from her. While there is a rally of Indian people supporting her, there is a rally of Indian people on the other side telling her to stop utilizing Indian customs to get her out of this mess. I don’t think she is guilty of killing her son, but I do believe she is guilty of handling this situation so stupidly that has gotten her in all of this unnecessary and unwanted publicity, and instead could’ve been mourning her son. There are two things any and all immigrants know once they come to this country. 1) Red means stop, green means go, & 2) If a police officer asks you if you killed someone, and you didn’t, simply say one word - “no”.

1dailyreader
1dailyreader

"It's a big deal to say goodbye because in Hindu/Indian culture, if [a] father does not say goodbye in person then the soul does not rest in peace," Finn told WFAA. "It's called 'giving of last rites.' [Pallavi Dhawan] said if [her] husband did not say goodbye to [Arnav], his soul would 'be here forever.'"  I don't see any mention that she could not contact her husband but she was waiting on his return.  As for having his medical records in the car, he had medical problems and my guess is that he had to go to the ER or medical facilities and they would need the son's medical history.  There are many cultures in this country and they have their own beliefs.  That does not make your culture (whatever that may be) the one for everyone to follow.

travlyngee
travlyngee

Something just doesn't add up;

The husband claims ne went on a 3 week "business trip to India"-and his wife couldn't contact him.  Where are you going on this planet (especially India) or in space that you cant be contacted for 3 weeks.  What if an emergency had happened with his wife?  Was she to wait until her husband came back to seek medical help.  Would the 10 year old son have been prohibited from calling 911 in the event his mother became critically ill or injured?

With all the so-called "friends" at the vigil-was the wife prohibited from calling a friend to apprise them of her sons condition?

You did not move into a $300k + home, in one of the most progressive cities in the country and marry someone that does not understand the mores of this country. 

Mother had a drivers license and had the presence of mind to drive around to get ice-yet it never occurred to her to drive her son to a hospital fire/police station of medical clinic?

Husband claims on camera with Chan 4 reporter that son had a myriad of medical conditions.  All the more that you would know what to do in the event of some occurrence.  I mean its only your son's life.  Was the son medically disabled and is this in his school records?

Why would anyone put a suitcase with a child's medical records in the trunk of a car?

If mother had nothing to do with son's demise-why wouldn't she seek help.

Katlyns11
Katlyns11

The bath tub was dry... meaning no ice or anything preserving the body in the first place. Even if that was her intent she is still wrong. I don't care what race or religion you are but you don't leave a body in the house and you sure as hell know what yes and no means. They moved to the USA, they need to know how we do things. They obviously were scamming the government too. Living in one of the most richest neighborhoods in Frisco and on well fare. Sit her ass in jail for the rest of her life. Piece of trash.

abcd
abcd

Apart from the so-called cultural differences - is a NOD sufficient for conviction...? and that too when she is emotionally traumatized and breaking the news to her husband?

The cops were too quick to jump to conclusions and are now having difficulty retracting from it so are sticking with their initial statement.

Luvguru
Luvguru

My wife, daughter, sick.. throwing up... and you speak of COUPON?!?

annff69
annff69

Time may tell, but not calling 911has nothing to do with Indian or Hindu culture. Hopefully, the autopsy and toxicology results will shed new light on the truth.

ink.sage
ink.sage

I am Indian and the head bobble not having an American equivalent is true. Two decades ago when I immigrated to USA, I was asked by my colleagues to articulate 'Yes' or 'No' clearly  and not bobble my head because they were not sure if I meant yes or no.  So Frisco police misinterpreting the mother's bobble is possible.  But, I cannot understand preserving the body in a bathtub. Even in India,  refrigerated morgue services are now in rampant use. Also every single Indian who lives here in USA is very aware of 911 service.  This mother just lost her only child, maybe she was too deeply shocked to function normally. 

lawsuth
lawsuth

Death is more common in India than America, so it seems natural they'd have more of a personal protocol for dealing with it.  A puja (small, Hindu prayer ritual) is normally performed when either a person or animal passes on and the wife often abides by the cultural codes her husband and she would inhabit.

Human
Human

If son dies, Mom makes no phone calls to 911/hospital/doctor, not even husband/friends. Decides t "preserve" body in the bath tub by herself. Wow.. I smell fish.. Moreover, highly educated techies from India, and "language problem"?.. My foot !!

juanmayeaux
juanmayeaux

I don't care what culture this family came from because they are now living in the good ole' USA. When someone dies in your house you don't stash the body in the bathtub with ice until the Patriarch/father returns from a business trip. We do not lack Indian-Americans who could interpret or give advice to this mother to do the right thing and call the authorities.  In our country we have refrigerated morgues and the father could see him there.

bagsmontana
bagsmontana

Oh boy. Frisco was sure quick to get out details on this one. That whole "trial by public perception" thing.

Whoops.

Wonder how long the line of attorneys is that will defend her.  And cash in on the civil suit that is coming. 

veruszetec
veruszetec

The Indian "bobble" is a very real cultural norm that Frisco PD apparently isn't aware of. Working with a team from India on a daily basis is what clued me in on the 'bobble' several years ago. It's even mentioned in travel guides to India. Perhaps this says something about the lack of diversity and/or cultural training at the Frisco PD.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Tragic case, it would seem. The boy's medical history and the father's candid interview would indicate that the mother was alone, distraught, stressed, grieving and probably unfamiliar with American societal norms and customs regarding situations such as this.  

The TMZ-ish fascination of the press with this case is another tragedy. 

chloechloe
chloechloe

I actually hope it does turn out that the boy passed from natural causes and this is all a big cultural misunderstanding, rather than abuse. My heart would be happier. Of course the truth needs to be found either way, but I can hope for the better of the two options.

mtgescrowman
mtgescrowman

this ones going to be interesting, no immigrant hall passes allowed

NewsDog
NewsDog

The preliminary autopsy was inconclusive. I keep hearing on KRLD that the family has extensive medical records on the boy that might explain things but they are in the car the police seized. The police haven’t reviewed them yet and they won’t release them to her attorney.

Why let the truth/facts get in the way of a good arrest/conviction rate.

doublecheese
doublecheese

I would like to hear from some Indians if what they are saying about their culture is actually true, rather than taking some defense lawyer's word for it.

travlyngee
travlyngee

@abcd BUNK!  $300,000 + home in Frisco.  Believe me you have assimilated and that "cultural" thing is so much bullshit. 

travlyngee
travlyngee

@ink.sage She had the presence of mind and function to drive around buying ice and putting the childs medical records in the trunk of a car.

travlyngee
travlyngee

@ink.sage Head Bobble Be Damned!

Something just doesn't add up;

The husband claims ne went on a 3 week "business trip to India"-and his wife couldn't contact him.  Where are you going on this planet (especially India) or in space that you cant be contacted for 3 weeks.  What if an emergency had happened with his wife?  Was she to wait until her husband came back to seek medical help.  Would the 10 year old son have been prohibited from calling 911 in the event his mother became critically ill or injured?

With all the so-called "friends" at the vigil-was the wife prohibited from calling a friend to apprise them of her sons condition?

You did not move into a $300k + home, in one of the most progressive cities in the country and marry someone that does not understand the mores of this country. 

Mother had a drivers license and had the presence of mind to drive around to get ice-yet it never occurred to her to drive her son to a hospital fire/police station of medical clinic?

Husband claims on camera with Chan 4 reporter that son had a myriad of medical conditions.  All the more that you would know what to do in the event of some occurrence.  I mean its only your son's life.  Was the son medically disabled and is this in his school records?

Why would anyone put a suitcase with a child's medical records in the trunk of a car?

If mother had nothing to do with son's demise-why wouldn't she seek help.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@ink.sage  

Similar is the Japanese avoidance to saying no.

Japanese => American

 

Maybe => No

I consider it => Definitely No

I must scrutinize => Definitely No and Hell will freeze over first

priya18
priya18

@Human  

I am also an Indian woman staying in Dallas area. Whats shocking is mother did not make any attempt to call husband or 911/hospital. We are not living in stone age. There are phones, internet/facebook/skype available and anybody could be contacted very easily. If she was an uneducated lady it could be understandable. But according to her husband she is an Engineer who had left her job. Also they did not move to US recently. They are in US for a very long time and citizens. So things about not knowing about 911 and not knowing car driving are ruled out.  I lost my mother 2 years ago and body was kept in hospital for 2 days in India so we could be there. This particular story has shocked me beyond belief. 

travlyngee
travlyngee

@Human AMEN!  The BULLSHIT METER IS TICKING OFF THE CHART!

Something just doesn't add up;

The husband claims ne went on a 3 week "business trip to India"-and his wife couldn't contact him.  Where are you going on this planet (especially India) or in space that you cant be contacted for 3 weeks.  What if an emergency had happened with his wife?  Was she to wait until her husband came back to seek medical help.  Would the 10 year old son have been prohibited from calling 911 in the event his mother became critically ill or injured?

With all the so-called "friends" at the vigil-was the wife prohibited from calling a friend to apprise them of her sons condition?

You did not move into a $300k + home, in one of the most progressive cities in the country and marry someone that does not understand the mores of this country. 

Mother had a drivers license and had the presence of mind to drive around to get ice-yet it never occurred to her to drive her son to a hospital fire/police station of medical clinic?

Husband claims on camera with Chan 4 reporter that son had a myriad of medical conditions.  All the more that you would know what to do in the event of some occurrence.  I mean its only your son's life.  Was the son medically disabled and is this in his school records?

Why would anyone put a suitcase with a child's medical records in the trunk of a car?

If mother had nothing to do with son's demise-why wouldn't she seek help.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Human  

Careful, I worked with someone from India many years ago.  When his mother died unexpectedly, his family kept the body on ice until he could get to Jodhpur for the cremation ceremony.  As the oldest son, and his father already passed away, it was his responsibility to direct the cremation service.  It was not easy to keep his mother's body preserved in August until he got there.

1dailyreader
1dailyreader

@juanmayeaux  She was presumed to have confessed by nodding her head in "this cultures" belief of what it means.  Do you really believe that the police were going to let her place the son's body in the morgue until the father came home?  It seems to me that an autopsy is always done as quick as possible from time of death.  There are more cultures in this country and they are observed as they should be.  Your argument about "in this country" is off base on this.

Luvguru
Luvguru

Something or other to do with the fact that this ain't India.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@veruszetec  The many Indians I've worked with (software development) often did exhibit what could be called a "bobble".  The thing is though, it looks absolutely nothing like nodding your head "yes".  It's more of a quick side to side movement that has no equivalent in American culture.

bungleinjungle
bungleinjungle

@doublecheese

Based on what I heard in the news, they seem to be naturalized citizens of US and that tells me they have lived here long enough to know the cultural differences. I think they are simply using cultural differences as an excuse and trying to hide behind it, but the whole thing looks fishy. I am from India and even if I am able to digest the fact nodding was misunderstood by the police, why on earth she didn't report it to anyone (as she/they claim) or call 911? Maybe calling 911 would have saved the child assuming it was a natural cause. The mother seems way too cold blooded.



veruszetec
veruszetec

@travlyngee Copying and pasting your comment as replies to other people's comments doesn't give yours any more valid credence. If anything, it detracts from it and illustrates that you don't have anything else in to add to the discussion.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@travlyngee @Humantravlyngee -- can we assume that you'll be posting here if she is cleared,the cause of the death is found to be natural, and the Frisco police issue a mumbled apology?

Human
Human

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul

Posting sympathetic messages will not help the culprits in any way, sd. Time will tell the truth soon..

Human
Human

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul

May be that happened in India. I've heard such stories about two decades ago. It is not comparing apples to apples. There is a death  and it is all kept secret/hidden. What was the mom up to? C

overing up?

travlyngee
travlyngee

@1dailyreader Show me one instance in all of DFW that an Indian, Hindu or Mulatto for that matter child died and your "culture" told you to leave them till Dad returned????

Something just doesn't add up;

The husband claims ne went on a 3 week "business trip to India"-and his wife couldn't contact him.  Where are you going on this planet (especially India) or in space that you cant be contacted for 3 weeks.  What if an emergency had happened with his wife?  Was she to wait until her husband came back to seek medical help.  Would the 10 year old son have been prohibited from calling 911 in the event his mother became critically ill or injured?

With all the so-called "friends" at the vigil-was the wife prohibited from calling a friend to apprise them of her sons condition?

You did not move into a $300k + home, in one of the most progressive cities in the country and marry someone that does not understand the mores of this country. 

Mother had a drivers license and had the presence of mind to drive around to get ice-yet it never occurred to her to drive her son to a hospital fire/police station of medical clinic?

Husband claims on camera with Chan 4 reporter that son had a myriad of medical conditions.  All the more that you would know what to do in the event of some occurrence.  I mean its only your son's life.  Was the son medically disabled and is this in his school records?

Why would anyone put a suitcase with a child's medical records in the trunk of a car?

If mother had nothing to do with son's demise-why wouldn't she seek help.

juanmayeaux
juanmayeaux

@1dailyreader Good point about the autopsy, but the father could still see the body.  I disagree about bending to other cultures. I go into the bank and the teller tells me to take off my Rangers Cap and look in the camera, I do it. If some lady is wearing a hijab in the bank, I don't think she should get a pass for religious reasons.  

veruszetec
veruszetec

@Luvguru  Oh, so people from other countries aren't allowed to keep their culture when they come to America?

I'm just going to assume you didn't make it out of the first grade, since that's when I first learned that America has always been a MELTING POT of different cultures. Everybody but Native Americans are immigrants here, you racist twit.

veruszetec
veruszetec

Make and female bobbles can be different depending on the caste they belong to and the region they are from. It's also easy to imagine it wasn't any kind of nod at all, but rather a straight-up bobble that the reporting officer misinterpreted. (I work in software development as well.)

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bungleinjungle @doublecheese  

I'm not sure about their citizenship status, but even if they are naturalized, that hardly ensures strict adherence to American cultural norms.

I haven't researched it, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the sort of incident that occurs now and again regardless of cultural conditioning. Shock can make people do very odd things.

travlyngee
travlyngee

@veruszetec @travlyngee Perhaps I could offer up these hypotheses; 1. Perhaps Mom got tired of playing "babysitter" whilst dear old Dad "handled business" in places that he couldn't be contacted. BTW do you recall the two "disgruntled babysitter" cases that occurred in just the last few days?

2. Dad just got tired of the family life or perhaps he was just tired of a dumpy wife.  Or maybe he just found something on one of his clandestine "business  trips" that was more appealing. In any event, the dowry oven doesn't work too well here in the USA.  In any event, maybe a guy could convince the wife to off the son and VOILA! I've killed two birds (pun intended) with one orchestration.  "I cant be blamed because I wasn't here".

Lastly, Al Knapp (a laid back, elder insurance salesman from East Texas) told me this back in 1989. "Son, people don't listen to what they say."  

The prosecution and investigators love it early on in a case when people start to talk to the media, hold vigils and call in high powered attorneys.  If the aforementioned was all it took to prove innocence.... then I would have certainly rented a satellite antenna so I could communicate with my family-due to my son's delicate medical condition-$300,000 + home in sophisticated Frisco notwithstanding.  

I shant copy and repost.    

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@travlyngee No marks on the body (even suffocation with a pillow leaves marks). No bruises, no blood anywhere. No evidence of foul play. Victim had known and serious medical issues. If I were a betting man I'd bet against homicide. 

I think Frisco cops grossly over-reached here. Your arguments are the stuff of TV cop shows, built on the behavioral profile of the Typical American Family.

But I could be wrong. We'll see.   

travlyngee
travlyngee

Yes, I will post on here. However, you don't seem to be familiar with the "PT". That's the Prosecutor's Trilogy.

1. Talking publicly especially to the media.

2. Hosting public vigils and gatherings.

3. Hiring high priced/high profile attorneys.

I could ask 3-5 questions not as a ruse- but rather as a means of spurring your thinking.

I don't know of anyone that would take a business trip to a tele-challenged area and not rent a satellite phone-especially if your son has medical conditions and/or your wife does not have the wherewithal to make a practical decision in the event of an emergency. (assimilation into American culture be damned)

Luvguru
Luvguru

You mean there aren't chinamen under your bed, yo?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@Human  

Culprits?

*facepalm*

I'll bet you still worry about communists under your bed, don't you?

Luvguru
Luvguru

Something or other to do with that ole Hindu chestnut called a killing.

veruszetec
veruszetec

@travlyngee Seriously, give it up with the copy/pasting. It shows you still haven't figured out how this whole 'internet' thing works. If you haven't learned the proper etiquette to comment on an article, nobody's going to pay any attention to your comments anyways.

Less is more. Stop posting the same thing to every response you don't agree with.

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