Schatz couple to stand trial in November
By Elizabeth De Alwis
A Paradise couple will stand trial in November for allegedly murdering one adopted child and torturing another during a "biblical chastisement" session.
Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz are charged with an open count of murder for allegedly beating their 7-year-old adopted daughter, Lydia Schatz, to death with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line in February. They are also charged with torture for allegedly beating their 11-year-old adopted daughter in the same manner, causing whip-like marks and internal injuries including kidney damage which required hospitalization.
The couple appeared in court Thursday morning for further arraignment and the setting of their trial date. Both pleaded not guilty to all charges. They have been in custody at the Butte County Jail on $2 million bail each. Last month, they waived their preliminary hearing. The trial is expected to begin Nov. 1 and last for three weeks. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said having three attorneys - one prosecutor and two defense attorneys - often lengthens a trial. He said it may also take a week just to select a fair and impartial jury. If convicted, both defendants face two life terms in state prison.
Defense attorneys Dennis Latimer of Chico (representing Elizabeth Schatz) and Michael Harvey of Oroville (representing Kevin Schatz) are reportedly continuing their investigation of the case. They have also not ruled out the possibility of trying to move the trial to another county where there has been less publicity.
Ramsey said it appears the couple was influenced by a book found in the Schatz's home, written by a fundamentalist religious group based in Tennessee, called No Greater Joy Ministries. It was founded by Michael and Debi Pearl. The Pearls and their organization encourage parents to use a "rod," a quarter-inch plumbing supply line as a "chastisement" tool to train their children to be more obedient.
The Schatzes have six biological children. Both victims were adopted from an African orphanage along with an infant girl about three years ago. Ramsey said he plans to call the Schatz children as prosecution witnesses during the trial.
According to Ramsey, the autopsy result showed that Lydia died due to a rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle due to injuries to her muscle tissue. The scientific name for the cause of death is Rhabdomyolyis. In Lydia's case, it was reportedly caused by blunt force trauma. The destruction of muscle leads to the release of damaged muscle cells in the bloodstream, which can harm the kidneys and other vital organs. Ramsey explained that the breakdown of the kidneys can cause an increase in potassium, which is associated with cardiac arrhythmia - a change in the rhythm of the heart, leading to cardiac arrest.
According to authorities, Lydia's death occurred after hours of discipline for reportedly mispronouncing a word during a home school reading lesson. Her 11-year-old sister had reportedly had a similar discipline session the previous day. Police and emergency personnel arrived at the Crestwood Drive home Feb. 6 after the wife called 9-1-1 to report that her 7-year-old daughter had stopped breathing. They found Lydia in full cardiac arrest.
In addition to murder and torture involving great bodily injury, the Schatz's face a misdemeanor count of child abuse involving their 10-year-old biological son.
The trial readiness conference is scheduled for Oct. 21, followed by the trial assignment hearing on Oct. 28. The trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 1.
Terry Vau Dell contributed to this report.