DA links fundamentalist religious 'training' to Paradise girl's death
By TERRY VAU DELL
OROVILLE -- A fundamentalist religious philosophy that espouses corporal punishment to "train" children to be more obedient to their parents and God, is now being investigated in connection with the death of a young Paradise girl and serious injuries to her sister.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey confirmed Thursday that other children in the home who have been interviewed told investigators "this philosophy was espoused by their parents."
Ramsey said he is also exploring a possible connection to an Internet Web site that endorses "biblical discipline" using the same rubber or plastic tube alleged to have been used to whip the two young ridge girls by their adoptive parents.
In court Thursday, a judge granted a two-week postponement before the children's parents, Kevin Schatz, 46, and Elizabeth Schatz, 42, enter a plea to murder and torture charges that could carry two life terms in prison.
The delay will allow the mother to retain legal counsel as her husband did earlier.
The father's attorney, Michael Harvey, declined to comment regarding the specific allegations against the couple until he has a chance to review the evidence.
"All I can say is the family is shocked; they are grieving the loss of their daughter and (ask) that people of faith will pray for everybody involved," the defense attorney stated outside of court Thursday.
The Schatzes were arrested last Saturday morning after their adopted daughter, Lydia, age 7, stopped breathing.
She was subsequently pronounced dead.
Her 11-year-old sister, Zariah Schatz, remains in critical condition at a Sacramento children's hospital, though is showing some signs of recovery. The two were adopted at the same time with an infant girl, now 3, from the same African orphanage about three years ago,
Prosecutors allege the two victims were subjected to "hours" of corporal punishment by their parents on successive days last Thursday and Friday with a quarter-inch wide length of rubber or plastic tubing, which police reportedly recovered from the parent's bedroom.
Police allege that the younger girl was being disciplined for mis-pronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson the day before she died.
The two young girls reportedly sustained deep bruising and multiple "whip-like" marks on their back, buttocks and legs, which authorities believe resulted in significant muscle tissue breakdown that impaired their kidneys and possibly other vital organs, said Ramsey.
He said investigators are researching a possible connection to an Internet Web site set up by "fundamentalist Christian people" that recommends use of the same whip-like implement "as an appropriate tool for biblical chastisement ... to train a child from infancy to make them a happier child and more obedient to God because they are obedient to the will of their parents," said Ramsey.
The district attorney said some of the Schatzes' six biological children, who were removed from the family home for their protection following the parents' arrest, have made statements suggesting the ridge couple shared this philosophy.
The other children in the home said the same rubber or plastic tube was used on all of them "as a standard method of discipline, but certainly not to the extent of these two girls," Ramsey added.
He said it's not clear at this point whether the Schatzes ever visited the Internet Web site in question, which Ramsey stressed "does not endorse hurting or beating a child," nor is connected to any specific church.
From the research he has done, the district attorney pointed out that "even within the fundamentalist Christian community" parental use of corporal punishment "is subject to a great deal of debate."
The ridge couple remain held on $2 million bail pending entry of plea in two weeks to the murder and torture charges