Trial date set in 'chastisement' death of girl
By TERRY VAU DELL-Staff Writer
OROVILLE — A Paradise couple are scheduled to stand trial in November on murder and torture charges involving two adopted children.
Kevin Schatz, 40, and his wife, Elizabeth Schatz, 42, pleaded not guilty in Butte County Superior Court on Thursday to the charges, which could carry two life terms in prison.
They are accused of causing the death of a 7-year-old adopted girl and serious injuries to her 11-year-old sister during separate "biblical chastisements" with a whip-like instrument in February at the family home.
The ridge parents remain in custody, with bail set at $2 million each, pending a jury trial estimated to last three weeks beginning Nov. 1.
The wife's attorney, Dennis Latimer of Chico, said outside of court Thursday they are continuing to investigate the case, but could not comment at this time on the specific allegations.
Latimer and the husband's attorney, Michael Harvey of Oroville, indicate they have not ruled out the possibility of seeking to move the trial on a change of venue to another county where there has not been as much publicity.
District Attorney Mike Ramsey alleged Thursday the ridge couple were influenced by a book found in the Schatz's home written by a fundamentalist Christian group based in Tennessee, espousing the use of a quarter-inch rubberized or plastic plumber supply line to "train" children to be more obedient to their parents and God.
Prosecutors have alleged that Lydia Schatz, 7, one of three children the couple had adopted from an orphanage in Africa three years ago, died from a breakdown of muscle tissue following a lengthy discipline session in the parents' bedroom after mispronouncing a word during a home school reading lesson.
Butte County sheriff's officers arrested the parents after the mother dialed 9-1-1 when the youngster stopped breathing on Feb. 5.
Her 11-year-old sister also allegedly sustained "whip-like" marks to her back, legs and buttocks during a similar parental chastisement the previous day.
She was hospitalized with kidney failure, and survived.
In addition to murder and torture involving great bodily injury, the Paradise couple face a misdemeanor count of child abuse involving one of their six biological children.