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February 27, 2013

Texas Investigation Continues After Russian Boy's Autopsy

by Greg Flakus

The Medical Examiner's Office in Ector County, Texas is continuing its investigation into the death of a three-year-old Russian adopted child even though they have had the autopsy results for a week.  Authorities are providing little information on what they have learned so far.

The investigation into the death of three-year-old Max Shatto has been in a holding pattern since his body was sent to the Tarrant County, Texas Medical Examiner's office, in  the city of Fort Worth, on January 22, the day after he died. But the office in Fort Worth sent an autopsy report to the Medical Examiner in Ector County, which has jurisdiction in the case, last week.

Ector County, in west Texas, does not have a facility for doing autopsies. But Linda Anderson, spokeswoman for the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office, where the autopsy was done, says authorities there will have to make the final determination of how the child died.

“We just did the autopsy and we then send the information to them. If they want to continue to investigate, they can do that, before they release their report," said Anderson.

She says it is not unusual to have an autopsy report take several weeks because of the time needed for toxicology and body chemistry test results, which are included in the final report sent to the investigating authorities.

“We give them the cause of death and then we give them a suggested manner of death, our opinion on what was the manner of death, but then it is ultimately up to them as to how they rule it, as far as the manner is concerned," she said.

The man heading the investigation is Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson, but he says he cannot proceed until the report is on his desk.

“The designated medical examiner for Ector County has to make his final determination and then send it to me and that is when we go from there," Donaldson.

The Medical Examiner for Ector County is Dr. Nathan Galloway, but his office is not providing any information to journalists, referring all questions back to Sheriff Donaldson.

The sheriff says representatives of the Russian embassy in Washington and the Russian consulate in Houston have been in contact and that Sergey Chumarev, senior counselor for the Russian embassy came to his office in the city of Odessa, Texas a couple of weeks ago and spoke to one of his deputies.

Donaldson: “We informed him the same thing we informed the rest of the public.”

Flakus: “Did he mention at any time that they wanted to participate in the investigation?”

Donaldson: “Oh, I think he did.”

Flakus: “And what was your response?”

Donaldson: “Again, I did not talk to him, but my response to all of them is 'No.' “

Political figures in Russia have charged that the adoptive parents of Max Shatto, Alan and Laura Shatto, were responsible for his death and have asked that his younger brother, Kristopher, who was also adopted by the couple, be removed from the home. But the US State Department has cautioned that no judgment should be made until the investigation is complete and state officials monitoring the home have found no reason to remove the remaining child.

Meantime, Texas Child Protective Services is investigating the agency that handled the adoption for the Shattos, the Gladney Adoption Center in Fort Worth, to make sure all proper procedures were followed. Texas officials say the 127-year-old private agency remains in good standing, but that licensing inspectors did find some errors in procedure in four cases last year in which children were sent to homes before the background check on the adopting parents was complete.