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Prosecutors Decline to Charge Parents in Death of Adopted Russian Child


The driveway to the Shatto family home, rear left, is seen in Gardendale, Texas, Friday, March 1, 2013.

The driveway to the Shatto family home, rear left, is seen in Gardendale, Texas, Friday, March 1, 2013.

The chief prosecutor in a western Texas county says he will file no charges against a couple whose adopted son from Russia died at their home in January. But, Texas state authorities are continuing their investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect by the parents.

The Ector County prosector, Bobby Bland, declined to charge Alan and Laura Shatto with any criminal offense in relation to the death of their adopted 3-year-old son Max on January 21. Bland said the county grand jury that examined the case determined there was not sufficient evidence to support a charge.

The Shattos adopted the boy, whose birth name was Maxim Kuzmin, along with his younger brother, Kristopher, from a Russian orphanage last year, not long before that country imposed a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. Russian officials have pointed to this case as an example of what they describe as widespread abuse of adopted Russian children in the United States.

Meanwhile, a state agency, Texas Child Protective Services, is continuing its own investigation into the case, according to the agency's spokesman Patrick Crimmins.

“We are investigating two allegations, said Crimmins. "The first is physical abuse, and the second is neglect or neglectful supervision. Once we are finished with the investigation, there will be a finding in each of the allegations.”

Crimmins said Texas Child Protective Services carries out such investigations when it receives allegations or reports from anyone about abuse or neglect of a child. He would give no information on who made the reports in this case.

“Anything about the reporters of child abuse is strictly confidential," he said.

As for how long the investigation might take, Crimmins had little to offer.

“There is really no timetable. It is impossible to say when we will arrive at a finding," said Crimmins.

An attorney representing the Shattos says the two adopted boys were playing in the yard outside the house when the mother, Laura, had to go inside to use the bathroom. She told investigators that when she returned, about 10 minutes later, she found Max on the ground unconscious. He was then taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

However, the medical examiner saw bruises on the body and ordered an autopsy. The results from that autopsy, announced March 1, indicated that the death was accidental. But that did not settle the question of neglect.
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