Pathologist: 7-year-old adopted boy was starved, beaten

Date: 2010-04-29

Pathologist, aunt, police officer testify about the injuries to 7-year-old Nathaniel Craver.

Starved, beaten and possibly bound - those are the findings of a forensic pathologist who examined the body of 7-year-old Nathaniel Craver.
Dr. Wayne K. Ross testified Thursday at the preliminary hearing for the Russian-born boy's adoptive parents - Michael and Nanette Craver of Carroll Township - who are accused in his death.

Both are charged with criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal conspiracy. They remain in York County Prison without bail.

At the hearing before District Judge Richard Thomas in Carroll Township, northern York County, Ross testified to the boy's injuries for almost 2½ hours. At the end of 4½ hours of total testimony and argument, Thomas bound the Cravers over

Nannette Craver is escorted to her preliminary hearing on Thursday. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS-JASON PLOTKIN)
for trial on all charges.
Nathaniel died Aug. 25, 2009, at Hershey Medical Center from complications of traumatic brain injury coupled with a severe "failure to thrive," Ross said.

Nathaniel was placed into care by York County Children and Youth Services in 2007. During that period, he received medical examinations including blood tests and a bone scan. Ross said he was able to compare those results with his autopsy findings.

Handing over the 19th and final prosecution exhibit, a picture of Nathaniel taken in January 2008, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tim Barker asked Ross if the boy "looked like the same person you performed the autopsy on."

"Not at all," Ross said.

Ross said the injuries to Nathaniel's swollen head were caused by repetitive blunt force trauma. He made the same observation as to the numerous bruises on the boy's arms, legs, chest, abdomen and torso.

The only part of the boy's body the pathologist did not take note of was the bottom of his feet.

Pictures taken at Hershey Medical Center by Carroll Township Police Sgt. John Schreiner reportedly showed an emaciated boy with gauze covering his head where surgeons had removed a piece of his skull to relieve the pressure on his swollen brain.

The exhibits - 18 hospital and autopsy photos and a cat scan - were passed by Barker to the defense attorneys and the district justice. They were not visible to onlookers in the courtroom.

Ross said the boy "looked like he was starved to death"

Michael Craver is escorted to his preliminary hearing on Thursday. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS -- JASON PLOTKIN)
and had "less than a millimeter" of body fat at the time of his death.
The pathologist said the boy's face and head were distorted by swelling and looked "like a balloon." Nathaniel also had a "classic cauliflower ear" normally seen on a wrestler, he said.

During Ross's testimony, Nanette and Michael Craver sat at the defense table with their attorneys. Both wore prison orange jumpsuits and were shackled and handcuffed to leather belts at their waists.

Nothing Ross said drew a reaction from either parent. Nanette Craver sat with a frown on her face and her lips pinched. Michael Craver remained non-expressive.

Ross's other findings included anemia, brain scarring, indications that the boy's shoulders and hips had been dislocated and that he had been bound at the wrists and ankles. He said the time of the injuries ranged from the 24 hours before being taken to the hospital to up to two months earlier.

Schreiner said he spoke with both parents at the hospital while Nathaniel was still alive.

He said both told him Nathaniel was a twin and had been adopted in Russia. He said the father told him both children had "behavioral problems" and were receiving treatment. Michael Craver told the officer Nathaniel had hit his head on a wood stove on Aug. 24.

The father said he found the boy unconscious but breathing in bed the next morning and drove him to Holy Spirit Hospital.

Sandra Atkins, Michael Craver's aunt, testified she visited the Craver home a week before Nathaniel was taken to the hospital and "I nearly cried."

She said the left side of the boy's face was "very, very swollen."

"His little eyes were swollen and almost shut," she said.

She described Nathaniel as lethargic and "not playing like he normally would."

Instead, the boy "sat on my lap and put his arms around my neck most of the time I was there."

She said she noticed a healing scar on the back of Nathaniel's head and asked her nephew about it.

"Michael said he throws himself down and he bawls and he rubs his eyes," Atkins said.

She said Nathaniel whispered in her ear, "Needle" and "Mommy."

On cross-examination, Nanette Craver's attorney David Hershey asked Ross if Nathaniel being diagnosed with reattachment disorder, the lack of a nurturing environment in a Russian orphanage and whether the boy was self-destructive and taking anti-psychotic medications would affect his findings.

Ross suggested deferring the psychological questions to an expert in that field. He then explained that anyone seeing Nathaniel over a period of time would have noticed the drastic change in his appearance and health.

Ross said the final injury to Nathaniel's head that necessitated taking him to the hospital required "hundreds of pounds of force."

He added the bruising patterns on the boy's head, back and abdomen "were inconsistent with self-abuse."

Following the hearing, Michael Craver's attorney, Vincent Quinn, declined to comment.

Nanette Craver's attorneys - Hershey and Gregory Moro - stepped before a bank of microphones and cameras to speak to the media, which included Russian news crews.

Hershey characterized the Cravers as "hard-working parents with no prior involvement with the police."

He said because of the criminal accusations, "they must grieve while awaiting trial."

Hershey then cautioned the American public about adopting Russian children, "many" who have undiagnosed psychological issues.

Barker also addressed the media, saying, "Not to be lost in this is how prolonged and extensive these injuries were and could be observed and still he did not get the medical attention he needed.

"As a parent, you have a duty by law to care for your children. If you don't, you are as liable as if you committed the act yourself."


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