Plea entry delayed in fatal beating of Paradise girl
By TERRY VAU DELL
OROVILLE -- Because the wife has retained new counsel, a Paradise couple charged with the murder of one adopted daughter and torture of her sister, did not enter pleas to the charges in court Thursday.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have disclosed that a book by a Tennessee-based fundamentalist Christian ministry, espousing "biblical chastisement" with the same quarter-inch plumber's supply line alleged to have been used in the ridge beatings, was found in the Paradise home of Kevin Schatz, 46, and Elizabeth Schatz, 42.
Chico attorneys Kevin Sears and Dennis Latimer Thursday were granted permission by a judge to replace the public defender who had originally been appointed by the court to represent Elizabeth Schatz.
"We are aggressively investigating every aspect of Mrs. Schatzes' case," Sears said outside of court.
The husband's lawyer, Michael Harvey, was critical of statements previously made to the media by District Attorney Mike Ramsey.
"If he desires to further prejudice my client and preclude a fair trial in Butte County, we could certainly make every effort to transfer it to another locale," Harvey stated.
In response, Ramsey contended, "I've tried to keep the sensationalism down by not releasing more details" to the media.
Earlier in the week, the district attorney had alleged the Schatzes "took turns" holding down two adopted daughters and striking them repeatedly with the rubberized plumber's line during separate discipline sessions on Feb. 4 and 5.
The youngest girl, Lydia Schatz, age 7, died en route to the hospital.
Authorities believe the alleged beatings caused a breakdown of muscle tissue that shut down the younger girl's kidneys and other vital organs.
Ramsey maintains the deceased child was being punished for mis-pronouncing a word during a home school reading lesson by her parents. He declined to elaborate as to the source of that information.
The victim's sister, Zariah, 11, who also sustained whip-like marks and bruises to her body, according to police reports, was initially listed in critical condition.
She has since been released from a Sacramento children's hospital and "is doing nicely," Ramsey said Thursday.
The Schatzes' six biological children have been placed in foster care homes with the surviving victim and a 3-year-old girl also adopted by the ridge couple from the same African orphanage about three years ago.
Police recovered four of the rubber or plastic plumbing lines that all the children in the home told investigators were being used by their parents to discipline them, according to Ramsey.
Also seized, he said, was a book written by Michael and Debi Pearl, a Tennessee fundamentalist Christian couple, whose "No Greater Joy" ministry endorses "training" children to be more obedient to God and their parents through several means, including spanking with the plumbing implement.
Ramsey said he didn't believe the Pearls could be held criminally liable in connection with the Paradise girl's death because they had "warned against injury to a child."
The "No Greater Joy" books and CDs stress spankings should never be done out of anger, nor should result in physical injuries to a child.
In a statement issued in response to the Schatzes' arrest, Michael Pearl was quoted as saying:
"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 ..."
"No Greater Joy does not advocate spanking to the point of serious injury. If indeed these parents were abusive, and that has not yet been proven by the courts, it is regretful that our teachings were not able to turn them from their predisposition to abusive habits."
Ramsey noted that as a deputy prosecutor in 1982, he won murder convictions against a Chico couple, Donnie and Delores Beacham, in connection with a similar fatal beating of their young daughter with a strap.
"Frankly, I hoped I'd never see a case like this again," Ramsey said.
The Paradise couple remain in custody on $2 million bail and are due back in court March 18 to enter a plea to murder and torture charges, which could carry two life terms in prison upon conviction.