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Russian Experts 'Analyzing' Shatto Autopsy

Max Shatto was born Maksim Kuzmin in Russia's Pskov Oblast.
Max Shatto was born Maksim Kuzmin in Russia's Pskov Oblast.

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By Richard Solash
WASHINGTON -- The Russian Embassy in Washington says experts in Moscow are "analyzing" the autopsy report for a Russian adoptee whose death early this year in Texas set off an international drama.

Yevgeniy Khorishko, an embassy spokesman, told RFE/RL that a copy of Max Shatto's autopsy report was "sent to Russia for the experts to analyze" after Russian officials received it last week.

Ashley Fourt, the assistant district attorney for civil cases in Texas's Tarrant County, where the autopsy was completed, confirmed that she released a copy of the report to Sergei Azizov, the vice consul at the Russian Consulate in Houston, on March 27.

The U.S. State Department said it has been "in contact with the Russian Embassy and local authorities regarding the report" as well.

The embassy's Khorishko declined to say whether Russian officials are preparing to formally challenge the conclusion that the child's death was "accidental."

International Drama

The death in January of 3-year-old Max Shatto, born Maksim Kuzmin, generated a furor in Russia, as officials accused the child's adoptive U.S. mother, Laura Shatto, of murder.

Russian officials cited the case as justification for Moscow's politically charged ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children, which went into effect at the start of the year.

Doctors who reviewed the boy's autopsy ruled on March 1 that his death was caused by the "accidental" laceration of an artery caused by blunt trauma to the abdomen. They determined that the injury fit into the boy's pattern of hurting himself, behavior brought on by psychological problems.

Authorities later said they would not file charges against the child's adoptive parents, a decision that was criticized by Russia's children's rights commissioner, Pavel Astakhov.

Russia demanded access to the autopsy report and has called the U.S. investigation incomplete.

Autopsy Details

The "Odessa American," a local Texas newspaper, posted the report on its website last week.

The report identifies more than 30 bruises found on the body of Max Shatto, from his head to his genitals to his feet.

A summary of an interview conducted by medical investigators with the boy's adopted mother, Laura Shatto, is also included.

In the interview, she paints a graphic picture of a child with severe psychological disturbances. His behavior allegedly included banging his head on hard surfaces, clawing at himself, throwing himself to the ground, and holding his breath until he passed out.

The report also states that the child's pediatrician prescribed Risperidone, an antipsychotic drug, but that Laura Shatto stopped administering the medication over fear of its side effects.

It also recounts details of the day Max Shatto died, when Laura Shatto allegedly left the child unattended for several minutes in the backyard while she used the restroom. She said she then discovered Max unconscious near the slide and swings.

Astakhov, Russia's children's rights commissioner, described the report on Russian television last week as "biased and hasty."

He argued that the boy's adoptive parents should at least be prosecuted for negligence for leaving him unattended.

Bobby Bland, the district attorney for Texas's Ector County, where the Shattos live, told RFE/RL: "I've tried to cooperate in giving [the Russians] information and keeping them in the loop on things, but essentially, the deal is that I have to prosecute based on the facts, not on rhetoric."

In the interview with Laura Shatto summarized in the autopsy report, she also claims that she saw her adopted son being sexually abused by a woman who temporarily took care of the child in Russia before the adoption was complete.

Dmitry Shakhov, the child's rights commissioner for Russia's Pskov region, where Max Shatto was born, told journalists on March 29 that he did not know what interim caretaker Laura Shatto was referring to. He said the child's welfare was her responsibility.

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