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February 22, 2013

Texas Officials Monitor Home of Adopted Russian Boy

by Greg Flakus

Texas officials are keeping close watch on the home of Kristopher Shatto to ensure the two-year-old's well-being. His three-year-old brother, Max, died a month ago in Ector County, in west Texas, and authorities are awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause of his death.

Russian politicians accuse the boys' adoptive parents of abuse and have turned the case into a diplomatic issue.

Texas Child Protective Services is working with local authorities to investigate the January 21 death of Max Shatto.

While authorities await autopsy results from medical examiners in Fort Worth, CPS representatives are making frequent visits to the home where two-year-old Kristopher Shatto remains, according to an agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins.

“We need to determine if there is any risk to any of the children who remain in the home, and we need to reduce or eliminate that risk and remove the child from the home if necessary," he said. "That has not proven necessary in this case at this time.”

According to Crimmins, there were no reported problems at the home before Max died and no evidence of abuse that would cause concern has been uncovered.

Witnesses at the hospital where Max was taken by ambulance described his mother, Laura Shatto, as emotionally upset.

Laura Shatto provided limited information about what happened that day at the family home in Gardendale, Texas, which is about 525 kilometers west of Fort Worth, according to Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson.

“We sent an investigator to the hospital to talk to the mother," Donaldson said. "The mother stated that she had been outside with the boys. They were playing. She had to go inside for a bit of time and when she came back out, Max was on the ground unresponsive.”

Alan and Laura Shatto have remained in their home since the death and have refused to speak to reporters, leaving the following message on their phone answering machine: “If this is a reporter or news agency, we have no comment.”

A medical examiner in Odessa, Texas, noticed bruises on the body at the hospital and sent the remains to Fort Worth. A toxicology report is a routine part of that procedure and results of such chemical tests can take several weeks.

Meanwhile, Ector County Sheriff's Department Lt. Roddie Eaton says the investigation continues.

“You still have people you talk to, you have other doctors involved that you are interviewing, you have evidence you have collected and things of that nature that you still conduct your investigation with.” Eaton said.

But authorities are not speaking about the specific evidence in this case since it is an ongoing investigation and no one has been charged with a crime.

Texas authorities also are in frequent contact with the Russian diplomats in the U.S. But Sheriff Donaldson says Russian officials will not be allowed to participate directly in the investigation.