Max Shatto (Maxim Kuzmin)

Three-year-old boy adopted (together with his brother Kristopher) from Russia by  Alan and Laura Shatto, died a few days after his birth day. Preliminary evidence showed that the boy suffered multiple injuries to his head, limbs, abdomen and internal organs prior to death. A grand jury concluded the boy's death was accidental, and no charges were filed. Max Shatto was adopted in November 2012, just two-and-a-half months before his death.
Date: 2013-01-21
Placement type: Adoption
Type of abuse: Death by unknown cause
Abuser: Undetermined



Gardendale, Texas
United States
See map: Google Maps
DocumentDatesort icon
Interview: Max Shatto's Mother Tells Her Side Of Story2013-09-03
World of Grief and Doubt After an Adoptee’s Death2013-08-31
Autopsy report provides insight in death of Russian boy adopted by West Texas family2013-03-26
Medical examiner releases Shatto autopsy2013-03-26
U.S. Court Clears Parents in Adopted Boy's Death2013-03-19
US Parents Cleared in Death of Adopted Russian Boy2013-03-19
Parents no-billed in Max Shatto case2013-03-18
Case Closed: Max Shatto's Death Ruled Accidental2013-03-18
Russian Boy’s Death Still a Mystery, Despite Medical Findings2013-03-04
Texas adoption agency cleared after boy's death2013-03-01
Death of Adopted Russian Boy Ruled "Accidental"2013-03-01
Russian boy's death ruled accidental2013-03-01
Autopsy: Russian adoptee's Texas death an accident2013-03-01
Texas Officials Deny Kremlin Account of Adopted Child Death2013-02-28
U.S. social workers confirm that Maxim Kuzmin died because of domestic abuse - Astakhov2013-02-28
Attorney: Shattos did not kill child2013-02-27
Toddler death stirs Russian polemic over US adoption2013-02-26
Sheriff’s office still waiting for autopsy results2013-02-26
Agency involved in dead Russian boy's adoption on hot seat2013-02-25
All Eyes On Texas Town At Center Of Russian Adoption Drama2013-02-22
US-Russian adoptee Max Shatto 'playing before he died' 2013-02-21
TFR promises to punish those responsible for the deaths of Americans orphans from Russia2013-02-21
Cruelty knows no bounds2013-02-20
Biological mother of dead Maksim wants her other son back from the US2013-02-20
Russian Embassy Confirms Diplomat Visited Site of Orphan's Death2013-02-20
West Texas Medical Experts Say That Perscription Drug May Have Killed Max Shatto2013-02-20
Sheriff: Adopted Russian boy was outside before death2013-02-20
Investigator Says Russian Child's Body Covered in Bruises2013-02-19
Russian children's rights ombudsman wants to end foreign adoption2013-02-19
After Adopted Boy Dies in U.S., Russian Officials Accuse Texas Woman2013-02-19
News of toddler's death in Texas reignites Russian adoption debate2013-02-19
‘End to adoption question’: Russia shocked at another child’s death in US2013-02-19
Russian adoptee in the US was beaten and given drugs used to treat advanced forms of schizophrenia of adults2013-02-19
Maxim Kuzmin death: investigation2013-02-19
Texas official: Bruises found on dead Russian boy2013-02-19
Duma demands SC initiate investigation into the killing of Maxim Kuzmin2013-02-19
Russia investigates 'murder' of Max Shatto, US adoptee2013-02-19
Reports Of Adoptee’s Death In U.S. Prompt Firestorm Of Outrage In Russia2013-02-19
Death of Texas toddler fuels Russian government's anti-adoption stance2013-02-18
Adopted Russian boy murdered by US mother: Moscow2013-02-18
Moscow hopes those guilty of adopted Russian child's death in US will be severely punished2013-02-18
Ector County Sheriff's, CPS Investigating Death of Adopted Child From Russia2013-02-18
Russian Government Accuses a Texas Mother of Drugging and Murdering Her Adopted Son2012-02-18


Horrific. Any news about what happened to his brother? Was he removed from the home and placed in foster care?

Agency Name?

I too am shocked, but not surprised given the lack of preparation and training these APs received.

Which agency approved this couple to adopt in the first place?


That is a good question. We hope to find out soon.

Agency --

I am American, but live in Siberia. Every abuse case involving Russian children is ALL OVER THE NEWS as soon as the Russian government learns of it.

I am not sure of the agency, but Max Kuzmin was adopted from the Pechorskiy Orphanage in the Pskov Region. This is the same orphanage the Dima Yakovlev was adopted from. (For those who do not remember, the law banning adoptions of Russian children by citizens of the USA is name for Dima Yakovlev.) Of course, all 'formalities' were conformed with, but that is the problem with the whole country. No one takes initiative or thinks of the effect of their action -- money rules AND heaven forbid that someone - anyone would ever take responsibility! Here people are trained from birth to blame everyone else and never take the initiative to improve or 'rock the boat'. There is an old gulag saying 'Step to the left, step to the right and you will be shot'. The problem here is not is every school, company, university, police department, etc. This mentality is not from Soviet dates much further back.

Where are you saying the blame lies?

Another American here, living in Moscow. I don't get the gist of your comments and wish you'd clarify. Who in Russia do you suppose needs to take responsibility, and for what? Is there any suggestion their system did not work the way it was designed to in this case?

My feeling is the responsible parties, besides the murderous APs, are the adoption agency and social workers who cleared these people.


I take back what I said about "murderous" APs--no one has been arrested and the investigation is still on-going. Russian officials in Moscow shot out a bunch of unfounded accusations to advance their own political purposes.

Even an accidental death, though, confirms the general point about APs being insufficiently prepared and adoption agencies soft-pedalling the children's disabilities and their needs.

The Russian press is full of sad, sad stories about the poor birth mom, her mother and her father, too. It's clear these poor kids are coming from a background of multi-generational pervasive substance abuse and psycho-social disorders.

God help them all. Russians have a saying: Ha Boga nadeisia, no sam ne ploshai (hope for God's assistance but yourself, don't just sit there!).


According to this Russian article, the adoption was performed by Gladney Center for Adoption.

Astakhov is backtracking

It seems that Astakhov is backpedalling--his infamous tweet about the murder of little Maxim Kuzmin (Shatto) was not based on any firm information, and the investigation in Texas is still ongoing. Even the information about Risperdal, at least according to the Russian press, was not based on any confirmed sources.

Despite this, the Russian Duma yesterday "voted" that the poor kid had indeed been murdered. You see what a disgusting political circus this is here. It's no mystery deputies seized on this story this week, to crowd out items about their members owning foriegn mansions and Miami apartments and hiding them from income statements...

In another disgusting turn, Astakhov invited the poor birthmother to Moscow to give an interview about how she wanted to claim the younger son back...and, well, if anyone is interested they can read the Russian press item. Suffice it to say the woman needs a lot of social/medical/psychological help to deal with her addiction issues that she is not getting. Officials are happy to make her into a pseudo-martyr, though. Anything to score points against America.

The NY Times summarizes the Russian coverage, adding it's own interview bits, here:

Serious questions despite Astakov's backpedalling

Cassandra - Yes, appears that Astakov is backpedalling but there are still serious concerns and unanswered questions about this sad case. While the Shattos are certainly innocent until proven guilty, it is worth noting that in the 2.5 months little Max had spent in his "forever family":

- CPS received and was investigating allegations of neglect against the Shattos
- Mrs Shatto allowed her 2 and 3 yr old sons play outside unsupervised (!!) on the day max died
- when Mrs. Shatto found Max unresponsive and called for medical assistance - they found max covered in suspicious bruises and he died in hospital an hour later and opened an investigation
- State Dept failed to inform Russia of the boy's death as required by law (new adoption law that came into force late last year). This is a treaty violation alone entitles Russia to suspend the treaty).
- the investigation into Max's death is ongoing

There is no question that this KNOWN information about a recently-adopted Russian boy who'd been home all of 2.5 months. Russia has legitimate reasons to be concerned about this little boys death.

It's a political circus but a decidedly WARRANTED one. Perhaps Russia would prefer their kids not be adopted by American families who harm them at significantly higher rates than European families??

A terrible, tragic case that demands action

I would never suggest that the fate of the poor boy is not a total tragedy, and what is worse, a preventable tragedy. I completely agree. Thankfully, in the U.S. you can have full faith that the criminal justice system will act as it should (unlike, perhaps the child welfare system, full of holes).

Nevertheless i have to take up your point about the "warranted" political circus here in Moscow, where I live, and have to experience it first hand. The revolting way which Yulia Kuzmina was sobered up, dragged in front of the television cameras, and then sent off to pickle should tip you off to the fact that there is not a serious child welfare debate going on here. To wit: 300 children died at the hands of their Russian foster and adoptive parents here last year, in ONE year. Does the Duma get exercised about this?

The problem is that in the wake of this horrible death, the Russian orphanage-industrial complex, as Boris Altshuler calls it, rumbles on unchanged (save for more monetary incentives to get more traumatized kids out into unprepared families, and thus save face for local and federal officials), as does the American commerce-driven orphan-buying industry.

I'd like to interject

Thankfully, in the U.S. you can have full faith that the criminal justice system will act as it should (unlike, perhaps the child welfare system, full of holes).

First, I disagree with the belief that justice will be served, should the parents be found guilty of a crime.  I believe there is a definite preference and leniency given to APs in the USA court system, and this leniency is reflected in softer sentences handed down by a judge.  [See:  Father Acquitted of Manslaughter in Son's Death in Car ]

In addition, I believe in almost all abuse cases that go to court, there is a bias against the adopted child - meaning, in most cases, the lawyers representing the APs like to prove the child who was abused, neglected, or killed was somehow damaged and partly to blame for whatever outcome developed.  [RAD, anyone?]  I find this tactic used in the court-room to be offensive.  In fact, this maneuver does little to ensure those who are responsible for wrong-doing are held accountable for their actions, and it does nothing to help officials identify ways to reduce abuse/neglect in foster and adoptive homes.

So... should a person have full-faith in the US criminal justice system?  Only if you're the adoption agency, adoption doctor/therapist, or adoptive parent -- not if you're the abused adoptee!

In regards to media-spin and who's saying what from whichever side for whatever reason:  I find both sides (Russia and the US) are creating whatever circus they desire, just so eyes and minds will be off and away from the poor care-systems both sides provide.

This brings me to a personal anecdote.  Just last week I was asked to be interviewed by The Russian State Television.  The NY Bureau Chief Correspondent and camera-man came to my house and spent two hours discussing PPL, my thoughts and beliefs about this particular case, and specific facts about abuse in adoptive homes.  I went into great detail about the ills found within the adoption industry - on both sides - and I gave many examples how these ills lead to the many fails that affect the thousands of children put in-care.  I was told this interview was going to be on a news program similar to our "60 Minutes".  I was praised for providing information no one else seems to have. 

I was thrilled!

Sunday came and went.  When I reviewed the Russian news-website  I found a small article about the funeral of Maxim Kuzmin.  Near the bottom of the article, I found snippets of information related to me and PPL.  Aside from being surprised by the odd off-topic insertion, I discovered almost all the information about me and PPL was incorrect, including the spelling of my last name and my own birthplace!  [During the interview I made it very clear I was NOT born in the USA; I became an American through inter-country adoption.] 

The irony did not escape me:   facts about my name and origin were changed to meet the wants and needs of someone else...  OK... as the token angry foreign adoptee, I get it.  <rolling eyes> 

I immediately wrote to the journalist who interviewed me.  I asked if the obvious errors, like my last name and birthplace, could be corrected.

The journalist responded to my email with an apology, claiming Moscow did the translation for him.

Um OK.  Whatever that means.....(?!?!?)

Meanwhile, back in America on a Monday morning, I received an email from an American Amother/journalist who recently penned a book about her adopted daughter's adoption experience. (Oh, btw, the daughter is from Russia.) I have had brief contact with this AM:  she wanted me to review her blog and promote her website.  I found her self-promotion and POV as an adoptive mother a bit offensive, and told her why I did not want to promote her work on PPL, especially if she promotes RAD as a diagnosis for Russian adoptees. ( I don't understand why or how so many APs insist their adopted children think and feel a certain way about the APs and adoption, itself.  This projection of thoughts and feelings onto the adopted child really bothers me, especially if a parent is not taught about the effects of stress, grief, and trauma and how these factors affect child behavior and development.)  Undeterred, this Am has kept me on her email list, and the curious masochist-in-me makes me read everything she sends.

This morning she sent her proud announcement:   "I am featured in RIA NOVOSTI's story about the Russian adoption ban. This Russian on-line news site has been closely following the story and was looking for examples of successful adoptions. The story links to my video, Check it out. Lend your support."

How is an angry abused adoptee supposed to respond to the fact that so much time and attention is given to the cries and complaints of APs, and in-turn, the media is almost always there in favor of the self-promoting AP, and NOT the very real problems that exist in child placement services? 

Are adopted children touched by careless adoption agencies supposed to just lay down and take the negligence and mis-labeling, and not say a word??

Based on this recent personal experience, I am seeing how both the US and Russia will do anything to promote their adoption agendas, anything but support the real needs of the thousands of children who are put in poor care, and then farmed-out to strange foreign homes, where parenting becomes a private matter -- making abuse in the adoptive home a whole new different problem and reality.

your article?


Where is the article where you were (mis)quoted?


at least they featured one of your main points

The print item takes your details from the mistranslated voice-over, true. But they did transmit what was presumably one of your main points, that APs are underprepared and their preparation is not sufficiently monitored or regulated.

Wow, that sneering, smirking introduction, though. And they say there's not a new Cold War. Now I know why I don't watch the network news here...

point fully taken about leniency bias for APs

Kerry, forgive a neophyte to this issue. When I commented on the U.S. criminal justice system I was thinking in compariitive terms, vis a vis what goes on here in the RF, where there is little hope for effective evidence-gathering or unprejudiced case-building. Quite opposite the U.S., the courts here have a prosecutorial bias (fewer than 4% acquittals in any given year!), so Russians truly don't get why any of these cases don't end in long prison sentences.

I don't doubt your contention that anti-adoptee bias plays a role...but remember, for Russians who can't fathom how anyone can be acquitted, ever (because there is no effective presumption of innocence in their system, rather the opposite), it is the entire explanation.

I would love to see your feature on state TV and will look around for it.


Pound Pup Legacy