orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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March 2, 2013

Autopsy: Russian adoptee's Texas death an accident

ODESSA, Texas — The death of a 3-year-old adopted Russian boy has been ruled an accident by West Texas authorities, but officials said Friday they are still investigating a case that has become a flashpoint in the debate over international adoption.

Four doctors reviewed the autopsy report and agreed that Max Shatto's death on Jan. 21 was not intentional, Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson and District Attorney Bobby Bland said. Preliminary autopsy results had indicated Max had bruises on several parts of his body, but Bland said Friday that those bruises appeared to be self-inflicted. He also said no drugs were found in Max's system.

"I had four doctors agree that this is the result of an accident," he said. "We have to take that as fact."

Alan and Laura Shatto adopted Max, born Maxim Kuzmin, and his half-brother, 2-year-old Kristopher, from an orphanage in western Russia last fall. Laura Shatto told authorities she found Max unresponsive outside their Gardendale, Texas, home while he was playing with his younger brother. The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.

Russian authorities have blamed the boy's death on his adoptive parents and used the case to justify a recently enacted ban on all American adoptions of Russian children. Russia's Investigative Committee has said it has opened its own investigation. It's unclear whether the committee could charge the Shatto family or force their prosecution.

Alexander K. Zakharov, the Russian consul general in Houston, said he wanted to see an official report from authorities before commenting on Friday's announcement.

The investigation into the boy's death continues, Bland said. Once investigators complete their work, Bland will meet with them and decide whether to pursue charges such as negligent supervision or injury to a child by omission. He did not say when such a decision would be made.

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