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Adopted Russian toddler's death accidental, Texas officials say

March 01, 2013|By Marisa Gerber
  • Ector County, Texas, District Atty. Bobby Bland announces autopsy results in the death of Max Alan Shatto, a 3-year-old adopted Russian youth. The death has been ruled accidental
Ector County, Texas, District Atty. Bobby Bland announces autopsy results… (Mark Sterkel / Associated…)

The death of a 3-year-old Russian boy whose story triggered a rebuke of his American adoptive parents by Russian officials has been deemed accidental, officials in Texas said Friday.

Max Alan Shatto had bruises on his body when he died at a Texas hospital in January, officials said, which led one Russian official to accuse his adoptive parents of "inhuman treatment" and stoked already sensitive Russia-U.S. adoption relations.

Doctors determined that the bruises were “consistent with self injury,” according to a statement from Sgt. Gary Duesler, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department in Ector County, where the boy’s parents live.

Three pathologists from Tarrant County, where the boy's body was sent for an autopsy, agreed that “based on all medical reasonable probability, the manner of death is accidental,” Duesler said.

Cause of death, Duesler said, "was a laceration to the small bowel messentery artery due to blunt trauma in the andomen."

Amid accusations by at least one Russian diplomat that the parents had drugged the boy, the medical examiner’s office tested the body for drugs. The toxicology reports were negative, officials said Friday.

Attorney Michael Brown said he considered the announcement a vindication for his clients, Alan and Laura Shatto.

Laura Shatto, who Russian officials specifically alleged had beaten Max, told authorities that she found the boy unresponsive outside their Gardendale home where he had been playing. Max was later pronounced dead.

“None of us are surprised at the outcome,” Brown told The Los Angeles Times.

Brown said the district attorney could still try to bring negligence charges, but not murder charges, which were hinted at by the early accusations out of Russia.

“It’s been something no one should have to go through,” Brown said, adding that officials have limited Laura Shatto to seeing her other son for only four hours a day while the investigation is ongoing.

“She’s been staying with friends,” Brown said. “They’ll go through that drill until [Child Protective Services] clears it.”

Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins told The Los Angeles Times on Friday afternoon that the investigation into allegations of physical abuse and neglect continues.

“That’s still going on,” Crimmins said. “We don’t have a final autopsy report in our hands and we need that.”

The branch of the department in charge of residential child care licensing, however, has cleared the Texas agency that handled the Shatto adoption --  the Gladney Center for Adoption -- of any wrongdoing, he said.


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