Professor: Cultural beliefs may shed light into Frisco boy's dea - Dallas News |

Professor: Cultural beliefs may shed light into Frisco boy's death

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A Frisco woman was recently accused of murdering her son, but a Southern Methodist University theology professor says that the family's cultural and religious beliefs may shed some light into the death and subsequent investigation.

Last week, police went to the Dhawan family's home. There, they found the boy, 10-year-old Arnav, dead in a bathtub, and his mother, Pallavi was charged with his murder.

In FOX4's exclusive interview last week with the boy's father, Sumeet, he said that Arnav was found in the bathtub draped in something like a shroud, which is what police said.

Sumeet, who had reportedly just returned home from a business trip when the body was found, says that Pallavi did not murder Arnav. He says his wife had covered the boy with bags of ice to preserve the boy's body.

"I think it's very plausible that she felt she just had to wait," said Dr. Robert Hunt with SMU's School of Theology. "That's the first thing I would note. Until he could come home and direct things."

Hunt understands the family's culture.

"There's nothing in the Hindu culture or religion that prevents or forbids keeping the body for some period of time," said Hunt.

Hunt lived in Malaysia and Singapore and taught Indian children for 13 years, and says the role of women also may have played a part in how things turned out.

"The woman does not have what you would call a lot of agency in making these kinds of decisions," he said.

Frisco Police say Pallavi confessed to the boy's death -- when asked by officers if she killed the boy, they say she nodded her head, indicating yes.

"An Indian nod is, at best, ambiguous," he said. "…it is very, very common that people misconstrue what Indians mean by a movement or a nod of their head."

Hunt isn't making assumptions about Pallavi's guilt or innocence.

"It's relatively easy to understand how she might believe that if she called the authorities, the very first thing that would happen would be that the body would be taken away," he said. "It would be brought to a medical center where there may or may not be any sensitivity toward Hindu culture."

Part of that cultural ritual is to have the person die at home, if possible, and then have funeral rites be completed at home before cremation.

A vigil for Arnav will be held at the family's home Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

Officials are awaiting toxicology results in Arnav's death.

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