orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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March 2, 2013

Autopsy: Russian adoptee's Texas death an accident

(Continued)

ODESSA, Texas —

The Shatto family's attorney, Michael J. Brown, said that Max's death being ruled an accident "is not a surprise to me at all." Three doctors from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office in Fort Worth, which completed the autopsy, and another doctor agreed on the finding.

Brown said Max suffered from behavioral issues and occasionally butted his head on objects or other people, which is how he got bruised. He also noted that Max was taking doctor-prescribed medication to treat hyperactivity but that his parents don't believe the medication played a role in the child's death.

Donaldson, the sheriff, has said that Laura Shatto told investigators that she went inside to use the bathroom, and when she came back outside, she found Max near playground equipment outside the family's home.

No one answered the phone at the Shatto home Friday, and a sign had been posted on the driveway: "No Comment."

The Russian government passed its ban on international adoptions in December in retaliation for a new U.S. law targeting alleged Russian human-rights violators. The ban also reflects lingering resentment over the perceived mistreatment of some of the 60,000 children Americans have adopted during the last two decades. At least 20 of those children have died, and reports of abuse have garnered attention in Russia.

Chuck Johnson, CEO of the Virginia-based National Council for Adoption, said an agreement ratified last year would have prevented the conditions that led to many deaths and abuse cases. One change in particular would have required all adoptions to go through agencies licensed in Russia.

"The deaths were terribly tragic, horrible," Johnson said in a Feb. 19 interview. "But the frustrating thing has been that those cases have become the face of inter-country adoption, and they shouldn't be."

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