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Attorney: Shattos did not kill child


Attorney: Shattos did not kill child

Adopted Russian boy’s death still under investigation

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 2:45 am

BY JON VANDERLAAN jvanderlaan@oaoa.com

“They’ve been getting phone calls from people calling them baby killers, and that’s just a nightmare,” local defense attorney Michael J. Brown said about Alan and Laura Shatto.

Brown said he was hired to represent the family in all matters when the news about the death of 3-year-old Russian adoptee Max Shatto, formerly Maxim Kuzmin, became widespread.

Brown was definitive when asked if the Shattos killed their adopted son.

“Absolutely no,” Brown said. “There’s no evidence whatsoever that I can see that would indicate that either of the Shattos killed their child.”

City spokeswoman Andrea Goodson said the public safety communication department received a 9-1-1 call at 4:15 p.m. Jan. 21 for medical services, which has previously been confirmed as a cardiac arrest report, for 16097 N. Waldrop Ave., in Gardendale.

Max Shatto was pronounced dead at 5:43 p.m. Jan. 21 by an emergency room doctor at Medical Center Hospital.

The Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office and Ector County Sheriff’s Office have both stated they found bruises on Max Shatto’s body, including his lower abdomen, although neither would say how the boy suffered the injuries.

Brown said he would not comment on what he believes the cause of death was, and the sheriff’s office and death investigators with the medical examiner’s office have also been silent on the question pending full autopsy results.

Sheriff Mark Donaldson said Laura Shatto went inside when her sons, adopted brothers from the same Pskov, Russia, orphanage, were playing outside.

When she came back outside, Max Shatto was on the ground, Donaldson said she told deputies.

Brown said she was not inside for long.

“I think what she told me is she had to go to the bathroom,” Brown said. “She had almost always had those children at her side.”

Donaldson confirmed that is what Laura Shatto told deputies, as well.

Brown said the Shattos have heard the same headlines spread about them and their adopted children as everyone else, including Russian headlines and officials labeling them as murderers.

“We’re considering the source and the reasons behind the source, which is obviously political,” Brown said. “They’re obviously upset, but they’re much more upset at having lost a child than any of that.”

Brown said because of his recent adoption that Max Shatto may not have completed the bonding process yet, as all families go through during adoptions.

Regardless, he said she cared for the child.

“My feeling is that Laura was totally – as far as she was concerned, that child was her child,” Brown said.

Taken in by the Shattos sometime after Russian courts approved the adoption in October 2012, Max Shatto was one of the last adoptions from Russia to the United States as Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill prohibiting further adoptions to the United States.

Russian media has since blasted the United States and the Shattos as a death factory and baby killers.

The Associated Press has reported that of 60,000 adoptions in the past 20 years, 19 children have died in American homes after their adoptions.

Russian media has located the biological mother of the two boys, who has claimed she wants the younger brother, 2-year-old Kristopher Elvin Shatto, returned to her.

Brown said he doesn’t believe it is possible for Russian authorities to take Kristopher Shatto back, and said Laura Shatto doesn’t want that to happen.

“I’ve seen Kris,” Brown said. “He’s healthy, a very strong little kid and a happy little kid.”

Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said the agency is investigating whether the adopting organization, the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth, properly vetted the Shattos before allowing them to adopt the boys.

Crimmins said the investigation, headed up by the Residential Child Care Licensing Division, is looking into whether the center complied with minimum state standards, which he said is a common investigation.

The DFPS received a report Feb. 19 that led to the investigation, Crimmins said, and Gladney Center for Adoption is in good standing with the state compliance-wise.

The Gladney Center for Adoption addressed the issue on its website and said the lack of answers regarding his death is distressing.

“We are assisting the authorities by providing information that may be helpful as they determine the child’s cause of death,” according to the agency’s website. “Because of the myriad legal and confidentiality factors in this situation, there’s nothing else we can say at this time, but we are grieving, and we recognize that these events are unsettling and challenging for all those affected by the toddler’s death.”

Crimmins said he had no updated information on Shatto’s death or on the investigation into the adoption agency.

Contact Jon Vanderlaan on twitter at @OAcourts, on Facebook at OA Jon Vanderlaan or call 432-333-7763.

2013 Feb 27