Ridge parents arraigned on murder
By Elizabeth De Alwis
Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, the Paradise couple accused of murdering their 7-year-old adopted daughter during a discipline session last Saturday morning were arraigned in court Tuesday. The couple is also charged with the torture of their 11-year-old adopted daughter, who remains in critical condition at a Sacramento hospital, and a misdemeanor count of cruelty to a child for signs of bruising discovered on their 10-year-old biological son.
The couple has not yet entered a plea. A further arraignment hearing was continued until today at 8:30 a.m. Both are currently being held on $2 million bail. Kevin, 46, and Elizabeth, 42 could face life in prison upon conviction.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said both girls sustained extensive bruising and whip-like marks on their bodies that were consistent with a 15-inch length of rubber or flexible plastic tubing - commonly found in toilet tanks. There were a total of nine children living in the Schatz home - six biological children ranging in ages 8-16 and three adopted children. Ramsey said the other children indicated they were disciplined in a similar manner, but none of them displayed any signs of abuse. The children were taken into custody and released to the Butte County Children's Services Division.
Attorney Michael Harvey was retained to represent Kevin Schatz, while Public defender Eric Ortner was appointed to represent Elizabeth Schatz, though she indicated she will seek to retain private counsel as well. Harvey declined comment to the press after court, until he has a chance to review all of the evidence. The Schatzes were arrested early Saturday morning, after Elizabeth Schatz called 9-1-1 to report that her 7-year-old daughter was not breathing. Officers arrived to find the girl, Lydia Schatz, in full cardiac arrest. Officer Tim Denecochea performed CPR and the girl was resuscitated and began breathing again at Feather River Hospital with aid of life support. However, she was pronounced dead later that morning before she could be airlifted to Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento.
She died en route to the Chico Municipal Airport after bad weather prevented a helicopter from making the flight. Police confirmed Monday that the girl was beaten for mispronouncing a word. Officers found 11-year-old Zariah Schatz in the home during the investigation, suffering from significant injuries.
She is listed 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. The two girls had reportedly been adopted by the Schatz couple along with a 3-year-old girl from an orphanage in Liberia about three years ago. 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 7-year-old Lydia Schatz was being disciplined "for hours" prior to the 911 call for mis-pronouncing 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 girl had been reading from.
An autopsy was scheduled to be conducted yesterday to determine the cause of the girl's death, but the results have not been released. Paradise police said they had no record of any prior child abuse complaints against the Schatz couple. Neighbors said the Schatz' were a deeply religious and private family who home-schooled their children and seemed to regiment their behavior.