Paradise couple face murder, torture charges in death of daughter

Date: 2010-02-10
Source: chicoer.com

By TERRY VAU DELL

OROVILLE — A Paradise couple Tuesday were charged with the murder of their 7-year-old adopted daughter during a discipline session at the family home last Friday and the "torture" the previous day of her 11-year-old sister, who remains in critical condition at a Sacramento hospital.

Kevin Schatz, 46, and his wife, Elizabeth Schatz, 42, were arraigned in Butte County Superior Court and could face two life terms in prison if convicted as charged.

County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said Tuesday both children suffered extensive bruising and "whip-like" marks on their bodies consistent with a length of rubber or plastic tubing, which other family members said was used to discipline the children.

The Schatzes were also charged with a misdemeanor count of cruelty to a child, involving less extensive injuries to their 10-year-old biological son.

The couple remain held on $2 million bail.

Oroville attorney Michael Harvey, who has been retained to defend Kevin Schatz, declined to comment regarding the allegations against the ridge couple until he has a chance to review the evidence.

The Schatzes were arrested early Saturday morning, after Elizabeth Schatz called 9-1-1 to report an adopted daughter, Lydia Schatz, was not breathing.

The girl was resuscitated at Feather River Hospital, but was pronounced dead later that morning before she could be airlifted to Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento.

Her 11-year-old adoptive sister, Zariah Schatz, was listed Tuesday in critical condition at the Sacramento children's hospital, suffering from kidney failure, among other injuries.

She is undergoing dialysis treatment in hopes it will help the organs recover, though Ramsey said doctors told him "it's to early too tell."

The two girls had reportedly been adopted by the Paradise couple, along with a 3-year-old girl, from an orphanage in Liberia about three years ago.

Ramsey said after being taken into protective custody, one or more of the Shatzes' six biological children indicated their parents had frequently used the tubing to discipline them, and that the two older adopted girls received "more harsh discipline" than the other family members.

The other children reportedly told investigators the parents blamed the 11-year-old for "being a bad influence" on her younger siblings.

Ramsey said the evidence suggests the girl who died was being disciplined "for hours" last Friday in the parent's bedroom for mispronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson.

When police searched the family's Crestwood Drive residence, they took a photograph of a 15-inch length of tubing lying on the parents' bed next to a children's book about a frog and a toad, which Ramsey said the deceased youngster had been reading from.

An autopsy is scheduled to be conducted today to determine the cause of the girl's death.

Ramsey said preliminary hospital tests indicated elevated levels of potassium in both victims' blood likely caused by the breakdown of muscle tissue from "recent discipline sessions."

Paradise police said they had no record of any prior child abuse complaints against the ridge couple.

Neighbors said the Schatzes are a deeply religious and private couple who home-schooled their children and seemed to "regiment" their behavior.

The Paradise couple remained silent at their arraignment Tuesday.

Judge William Lamb allowed the media to photograph the pair in court, over the objections of the husband's lawyer and a second attorney, Larry Willis, who represented the wife during Tuesday's court proceedings.

The judge appointed Chico attorney Eric Ortner as Elizabeth Schatz's attorney at this time, though she indicated she is attempting to retain private counsel.

More than two-dozen supporters showed up for the hearing, including the parents of one or both of the defendants. All declined comment.

The ridge couple are due back in court on Thursday for appearance of counsel and possible entry of a plea to the murder and torture charges.

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The chosen ones

Paradise police said they had no record of any prior child abuse complaints against the ridge couple.

Who's going to file a complaint?  The brain-washed children of private, deeply religious regimenting parents?  The neighbors who received free yard cleanings and bread and saw the family as being nice and quiet? Are you kidding?

If a Liberian child is beaten to death disciplined for mispronouncing a home-school reading lesson, and a second Liberian child is beaten disciplined to the point of organ failure, (for being a "bad influence on younger siblings"), I'm thinking the other four children are going to be real careful minding their P's and Q's, knowing damn well not toeing the line can be lethal.

Here's the sick part:   not using the hand to discipline is supposed to send a positive message.  <shaking head>.  I always figured my mother used objects because it would hurt more.... leave a more lasting impression.  What did I know?

I like how the two older adopted girls received more harsh discipline than the other family members.  Clearly, the chosen-ones kept asking for it. 

Adoption&Homeschool = ExtremeDangerToKids!

'Homeschooling' without proactive checkups on the kids has absolutely got to end. I always saw the inherent danger to kids in the homeschool movement. It's common sense. Anyone who knows what kind of abusive people exist in this world had to see the inherent danger to kids of completely allowing them to be withdrawn from society by their guardians and not checked up on by society. It is very often school personnel who will notice signs of abuse and alert authorities. When a child is allowed by society to be taken away from society and kept in a house without being checked on at all - what a dream come true for pedophiles and abusers of all sorts! To begin with, it is human nature that most people don't love a child that is not biologically theirs as much as they would be able to love a child that is theirs (or in their extended family). Of course there are people who can and do love children that are not their own or in their family, but most people don't. (At least not in the same way.) So, when u combine giving someone a child that is not biologically theirs and allowing them to keep the child behind closed doors hidden from society - not even going to a school - what a dream come true that is for any pedophile or ABUSER of any kind!

I always wondered could I really be the only person who sees the inherent danger in the homeschooling movement? I'm not saying at all that I'm completely against homeschooling. But society has got to open it's eyes and put laws in place that society will check on those kids a certain number of times per year or with a certain frequency - without much advance notice to the parents or guardians. I knew that homeschooling would have an inherent danger to kids and I couldn't believe no one else seemed to be talking about this in the media.

Well, within the past week alone, I have come across 2 separate confirmations of what I was concerned about - and I didn't even go looking for them. One of the 2 confirmations is the news story above. If those 2 girls (7-yr-old beat to death & 11-yr-old in critical condition) had gone to a regular school, the signs of abuse could have been noticed before it got that far. The other confirmation of my concerns is in the story of poor little Ricky Holland. When the school he attended wouldn't go along with her public abuses and humiliations of him, the adoptive mother pulled him out of school and said she'd homeschool him. For example, she used to tell the school things like he was not to be allowed to have any treats at school when all the other kids did - because he was supposedly being punished for something he did at home. God bless that school's principal because he refused to go along with her requests regarding that child. So she pulled him out of school saying she would 'home school' him - which lead to her being able to get away with doing such things as smashing & cutting his face. She knew no one would see the results of her abuse because he didn't have to go to a school. He was dead by the age of seven. One day when a neighbor discovered him in his house looking for food in the kitchen, he saw that there were stitches on his chin that didn't look professionally done. That's because the abusive mother had stitched up her own handiwork on that child's face. (Child-abuser/child-murderer Joel Steinberg, who killed his illegally-adopted daughter at age 6, also had been known to extend his abuse of her to school-time, for example telling the school falsely that her doctor said she could have nothing to drink all day at school. If there had been a homeschool movement back then in the 80's and she had lived past age 6, I wouldn't doubt he might have hit on the idea of taking her out of school also.)

This allowing of adults to take children out of schools and no one checking up on those children HAS GOT TO END. Those children cannot just be forgotten by society. There needs to be legislation that requires checkups on those kids. Anyone with nothing to hide shouldn't be against that. If there's nothing to hide - like kids with faces stitched up at home, unexplained bruising & black eyes - then they should support such legislation.

Homeschooling vs school

Speaking from first hand knowledge, schools are also havens for pedophiles. Ditto churches, boy scouts, etc. The are nut cases everywhere.

Then again,

Speaking from first hand knowledge, schools are also havens for pedophiles.

So are families. Especially repressed religious ones.

Yeah...

Yep.

open v closed environment

I certainly agree with you. Everywhere adults get in contact with children is a magnet for pedophiles, whether it is through schools, boy scouts, residential care facilities, orphanages, foster care or adoption. Everywhere that contact can be thought, there will be pedophiles trying to get in.

There is however a qualitative difference between pedophile teachers and homeschooling abusers. A pedophile teacher in a regular school environment is much more constrained than abusive parents are. A child that is sexually harassed by a teacher usually has a place to go and talk. A child can go to his/her parents, go to the school principal, to the school nurse. A home-schooled child that is being abused has no one to turn to. All contact with the outside world is deliberately cut-off to prevent discovery. Teachers don't have that same power. That's why there are probably a lot more pedophile teachers than there are pedophile teachers that dare to act out their sexual preferences.

In closed environments: residential care, orphanages etc., the risk is much bigger, especially when those in charge actively participate in the abuse or passively allow it. There is overwhelming evidence of this in Catholic children's homes. Again in such situations, the child has nowhere to turn to. The more the life of a child is closed the more chance an abuser has to get away with it. At the same time, the more a child has the chance to meet other people the bigger the chance is that one of those people is a pedophile, yet at the same time the chance to get away with it gets smaller.

I don't think limiting a child's contact with other people is a solution to abuse. Of course parents should be careful whom a child has contact with and where, but there is much more to be gained by offering a child a relatively open environment where it can speak freely. Calculative as most abusers are, they will not risk getting caught, when the chance is significant the child will talk about abuse or lewd conduct. That is why abusive teachers usually don't go after  the "popular" children, they usually target children that are already isolated, the ones that don't have a home life that is inviting to a child's experiences. That is why teachers in very hierarchical schools (eg. traditional Catholic schools) have more chance to lay their hands on children, than in schools that are less hierarchical.

I think key to preventing abuse is in giving children access to adults they can trust. If the principals office is open for a child to walk into, or there is a school nurse that can easily be approached, or there are teachers that take an interest in their pupil's well-being, the chance for pedophile teachers to get away with their actions, diminishes quickly.

It's impossible to remove the motives of pedophile teachers, but their means and opportunities can very much be limited.

No one to go to; no one to trust

In closed environments: residential care, orphanages etc., the risk is much bigger, especially when those in charge actively participate in the abuse or passively allow it. There is overwhelming evidence of this in Catholic children's homes. Again in such situations, the child has nowhere to turn to. The more the life of a child is closed the more chance an abuser has to get away with it. At the same time, the more a child has the chance to meet other people the bigger the chance is that one of those people is a pedophile, yet at the same time the chance to get away with it gets smaller.

"Closed environments"... "the child has nowhere to turn to"... this fear of having no one to go to, no one to trust is compounded and made far worse by the fact that the child (victim) knows the abuser is one many adults like and trust.

I speak from personal experience... there is nothing worse than trying to tell a 'trust-worthy adult' what is really taking place, knowing damn well, none of it will be taken seriously because 'the adult' (you think you can trust) knows the other adult (abuser) very differently.

I hated how everyone saw certain Afamily members "differently".  Hated it.  After a while, I learned it was best to keep silent... admitting the truth wasn't worth the effort.

Convincing..

I understand what you are saying and it makes sense. Children need to be protected. It just sucks because most homeschoolers are average people who are social AND don't use public schools. Public school isn't the only way to be around other people and most homeschoolers don't isolate themselves from society. I have fundamental philosophical issues with public schools (both educational and social), but that is not the same as being reclusive.

Also, many homeschoolers are not religious; there are secular homeschoolers who by and large homeschool for educational reasons. My family is not religous. I could not believe in any god that kept my children from their (real) mothers.

vulnerable to be misused

I agree with you that home schooling is practiced by people of all walks of life, from people that can poltically be considered far left, to those that can be considered far right, from people that have no religious belief at all, to people that have a fundamentalist adherence to religion, and everything in between (though more so at the ends of the spectrum. after all home schooling requires strong convictions, less likely found in the middle).

The problem is not so much the idea of home schooling itself, when properly carried out, it can work really well. The problem is that it is very hard to establish if the claim to home school is actually used to give a child a proper education. The liberty to home school is highly vulnerable to be misused for other motives.

Sometimes certain liberties need to be constrained, even the vast majority use that liberty with wisdom. That is why several states impose certain rules with regard to home schooling, but there are other's, like the State of Califonia (where the Schatz' drama took place), where home schooling is not regulated at all.

I can understand in the US, where the educational system is highly politicized due to electable school boards, there can be a need or desire to home school children. When one or the other party can decide what needs to be part of the curriculum, the best interest of children is not served. I do believe that is a systemic problem in the American school system, but not one that is solved by home schooling. In fact home schooling helps perpetuate problems existing in public education, because the most critical parents move outside the system. So taking children out of the school system can be good for those individual children, but in the end it is not good for children at large.

homeschooling and the best interest of the child

I agree with your point of view. When we started collecting information about abuse in adoptive families, it soon occurred to me that quite a lot of abuse situations coincided with home schooling. At the time, I had little or no knowledge about home schooling. Where I live, the practice is virtually non-existent. Over time I have learned a bit more about home schooling, read the arguments for and against, and while I am not a huge proponent of it, I understand why it has a place in American society, while it doesn't have a similar place in most European countries.

In some settings home schooling can work, but I also see many down sides to it. Besides the abuse angle, which you assessed in your post, and which we have talked about before on this website, I also have another problem with home schooling, we have not addressed here before.

Quite a few adoptive parents use homeschooling to prevent their children from learning certain facts. Among fundamentalist Christians, a group deeply involved in homeschooling, an unresolvable tension exists between a literal interpretation of the Bible and evidence found through the exploration of nature. The notion Heaven and Earth were created in six days, some five to tenthousand years ago, is completely incompatible with evidence found in many fields of exploration. The response of most fundamentalist Christians is to deny the evidence, and this denial is one of the main driving forces behind the Christian home schooling movement.

Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinions, people are not entitled to their own facts though. Still, people should have the freedom to believe whatever they want to believe, even if those beliefs are incompatible with reality. It gets problematic when parents that hold certain demonstrably false beliefs (I am not talking about a belief in God here, which is neither provable nor refutable, but a belief in a literal interpretation of the creation myth), can deny their children access to facts (Geological, Cosmological, Biological findings). 

The tension here: on the one hand it is in the best interest of the child to be presented with the facts, and their possible explanations, while on the other hand, the state should not interfere too much in the lives of its citizens. Civil liberty is a great good, and shouldn't unduly be tampered with, but at the same time if that liberty is used in ways detrimental to the development of children, I get concerned.

The situation gets less complicated when adoption or foster care placement is involved. As a society we have and should not have control over who procreates with whom, so children will be born in all sorts of families. Yet a legal placement decision is always state approved , in which case there is no tampering of civil liberties when taking into account that children should have age appropriate access to facts. So I find it problematic when children are placed in homeschooling families that deny their children access to these facts. Such a placement is not in the best interest of the child, and in my opinion should not take place.

Even though I am very much opposed to the placement of children with those that want to deny their children access to accurate information, I can still believe in the good intensions of these people. Their decision, no matter how deluded, is often based on the protection of children; protect them from what they see as evil, but which in reality are demonstrable facts.

It gets worse when homeschooling is used as a means to cover up abuse, which unfortunately happens in quite a lot of cases. There are several cases in our archive where children were taken from school in response to alleged abuse. So homeschooling is certainly seen and used as a means to prevent abuse from being discovered.

The homeschooling community (if there is such a thing), often responds to this by saying that these people are not really homeschoolers. The problem with that response is that there are no real homeschoolers, just like there are no true Scotsmen. Every parent that takes a child from school under the pretext of homeschooling, is a homeschooler, whether the child receives an education or not, whether the child is treated with love or with the rod.

The current liberty of parents to do whatever they want to in the context of homeschooling, is too much focused on the notion of parental rights, and is too little concerned with the best interest of the child. Parents that don't want their children exposed to reality, have the power to do so. Parents that don't want their children to interact with other children, have the power to do so, Parents that abuse their children and want to prevent exposure, have the power to do so.

This is not to say that all, or even a large part of parents that homeschool abuse their liberties, but a significant portion of parents do, and there is very little in their way to do so.

So I wholeheartedly agree that taking children out of school without any form of monitoring should stop, certainly to prevent child abuse from being covered up, but also to make sure that children actually get an education, one that prepares them for life in this society. When it comes to children placed through adoption and foster care, we even have a stronger obligation to do so.

Just want to say I'm impressed

I cannot say how happy I am to have found PoundPupLegacy - a community of people who take these issues seriously, are pretty well-informed, and care enough to do something to help. Even people who just engage in the dialogue on these issues are contributing.

I have been relatively very tuned into child welfare issues for so many years in different ways, but mostly on a voluntary, individual-citizen basis. In the past, I did consider turning my life in that direction professionally a couple of times, but ironically, precisely because of how much I cared, I decided not to. I thought that I'd care too much and then get burned out like a lot of people do. But within the past few years I realized there's a place somewhere in these struggles for everyone who takes children's issues seriously. Especially for people who are aware of the gap between where we are and where we need to be legislatively and people who are serious about changing things for the better.

Pound Pup Legacy