Beating death draws national attention

Date: 2010-02-25


OROVILLE — A Paradise couple is scheduled to appear in court today on charges of murder and torture in the death of their adopted 7-year-old daughter.

Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz are expected to enter a plea today. They are accused of killing Lydia Schatz and severely beating their 11-year-old adopted daughter, Zariah Schatz.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said he has a direct connection between the Schatz case and No Greater Joy Ministry, a fundamentalist religious organization founded by Michael and Debi Pearl.

He would not disclose the evidence.

Ramsey said Lydia Schatz was held down for several hours by one parent while the other struck her repeatedly with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line. He said it appears they "took turns."

The use of the tubing is recommended by No Greater Joy Ministry as a spanking instrument.

It is unlikely, however, that the Pearls or their ministry would be held legally accountable.

"I don't think it would fly," Ramsey said, reiterating that the Pearls specifically warn against beating children, or spanking in a way that would severely injure children.

Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz are both being held on bail of $2 million.

The case is drawing national media attention. Salon Magazine writer Lynn Harris wrote a second article about the Pearls on Monday, "Godly discipline turned deadly," in which she outlines the child training practices and highlights the outrage expressed by many conservative Christians.

Harris also authored a 2006 article entitled "Spare the quarter-inch plumbing supply line, spoil the child," which led Ramsey to look at the methods espoused by the Pearls. Their methods were briefly connected to the death of a 4-year-old boy, Sean Paddock, who died in 2006 at his mother's hand in North Carolina.

Harris was contacted by Chico resident Paul Mathers, who she quotes in the article. Mathers and his wife Laurie, made friends with the Schatz family when the couple attended their church for a few months.

The Mathers had dinner with the family and became familiar with nine Schatz children — six biological children and three adopted from Liberia.

Laurie Mathers told the Paradise Post this week that when Lydia died, "We thought maybe it was a mistake," she said, "Like maybe she fell & Then we heard that Zariah was in the hospital and we had to face this." "It didn't make any sense until we learned about the Pearl teachings."

In her blog she describes them her reaction as "disgusted. Horrified."

"The Pearls preach lies from the pit of hell," Paul Mathers writes in his blog.

No Greater Joy CEO Michael Pearl declined comment at this time.

However in a previous statement he said, "We do not teach 'corporal punishment' nor 'hitting' children. We teach parents how to train their children, which sometimes requires the limited and controlled application of a spanking instrument to hold the child's attention on admonition.

"Over 1,000,000 parents have applied these Biblical principles with joyful results."

Elizabeth De Alwis is a reporter for the Paradise Post.


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