Max Shatto, Adopted Russian Boy at Center of an International Dispute, Died of an Accidental "Self Injury," Autopsy Finds

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On Friday afternoon, a bit more than a week after fairly high-ranking officials in the Russian government began lobbing allegations of unspeakable child abuse against a Texas couple, authorities have ruled the death of their adopted Russian son an accident.

The Ector County sheriff's and district attorney's offices held a press conference in Odessa today to discuss the findings of the autopsy performed on 3-year-old Max Shatto, who died on January 21.

The cause of death, according to the Ector County medical examiner, was "a laceration to the small bowel mesentery artery due to blunt trauma in the abdomen" that is "consistent with self injury." Bolstering that conclusion was a previously diagnosed behavioral condition that caused Max to hurt himself.

In other words, this was a tragedy. Not a crime.

In a press release, Ector County officials also note that no drugs were found in the boy's system. Russian authorities had asserted that Max's adoptive parents had fed him psychotropic drugs and that his ingestion of Risperdal, an anti-psychotic, may have contributed to his death.

Earlier in the day, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services released the results of its investigation into Fort Worth's Gladney Center for Adoption, which it found had done nothing wrong in placing Max with Laura and Alan Shatto.

The question now is what Russian officials, who used Max's death to support the recent decision to ban U.S. adoptions, will make of this. Will they accept the results of a monthlong investigation, or will they continue to paint the Shatto's as child-killing monsters? We'll know very soon.

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What mavdog wrote, with bells on it.  

I have had family work as missionaries in Russian orphanages until the R Orthodox Church and their gov't tossed them out.  Note, they were not trying to obtain American parents for those children, just trying to help them through the horrorshow of Russian orphanages and not end up committing suicide, prostituting themselves on the street, etc.

For whatever reason, both the RO Church and the Russian gov't preferred to deny these children help than to admit they treated their orphans abominably.

Also, friends of the family have adopted Russian children out of orphanages.  They saved those children, period.  They spent tens of thousands of dollars and uncounted time and literally saved those children. 


Peter Dodds,

It is unfortunate that you are spending your intellectual capacity on a collaboration of sound bites referenced to individuals that you have googled, thread together, and thus consequently happen to share your delusional opinion regarding international adoption. 

The problem you share has little to do with lose of culture and language, but rather a very common psychological phenomena that most adopted children share of simply being adopted and displaced not into a new country, but a new family.  

You feel very strongly about your German culture that you say was taken away from you. Fortunately, in the USA this day and age, one may easily learn and embrace any culture / language via countless technologies and educational methods that are available to us. Unfortunately, as a German orphan born in the 1950's and raised in Germany, you would not be interested in cultures and languages, but rather survival.

Unless your parents were abusive in any way, it is unfortunate that you are so unappreciative of their GIFT. They truly gave you the gift of LIFE, as you know it TODAY.


Concerned Citizen of the World


This would be the 20th Russian adoptee murdered by American adopting parents. The international adoption industry refuses to admit there is a problem.

I was adopted from a German orphanage by an American couple and applaud the ban prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children. In this TV interview, I describe international adoption from a unique perspective--that of a foreign orphan adopted to the United States--and harm caused by uprooting children from their native countries and cultures.

Peter Dodds

scottindallas topcommenter

blunt abdominal trauma.  Yes, clearly that could ONLY have been done by the child.  If these parents were poor and black, I suspect that the ME might have more questions.  You hate to see anyone falsely accused, but this doesn't seem like an open and shut case.  Add to that the international attention this case has attracted, and the consequences of finding fault with the parents; could end Russian adoptions entirely. 

mavdog topcommenter


you clearly conflate your personal issues with this complex subject.

others have benefitted from adoption and their lives are vastly better due to their adoptive parents. too bad your experience did not have as much success, but your failure should not be used to deny others the opportunity to have caring. loving parents.

holmantx topcommenter

@scottindallasMax died from a torn artery in his abdomen and had bruises consistent with injuring himself, a behavioral disorder that he had previously seen doctors for, a statement from Ector County officials said.

The child's adoptive mother Laura told investigators she was with Max and his brother as they played together in the family's backyard. She left them momentarily to go inside and found Max unresponsive on the ground when she returned. Max died at an area hospital.

Max Shatto, also known by his Russian name Maxim Kuzman, died while in the care of his adoptive parents Alan and Laura in January, a few months after they had taken him and his two-year-old half brother Kristpher from an orphanage in western Russia.


So they went to the expense and trouble to fetch two small children (one with a history of behavioral disorder) from western RUSSIA only to neglect, abuse and intentionally cause the death (or worse, torture) a few months later?

holmantx topcommenter

@scottindallasThe Texas Ector County District Attorney said the case will continue, despite ruling the death accidental.

"We will look at the circumstances surrounding the child's death and everything that goes along with that and make a determination of whether there was a violation of the law," he said.

"It is a terrible tragedy when a child of three years old dies," Bland said. "However, based on the medical information that we have, I had four doctors look at it and they told me it was accidental.

"Obviously, this is a major piece of evidence that influences how we proceed and what possible charges could be filed."

Texas child welfare authorities also are investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect. The priority is to ensure the safety of Max's brother, who remained in the home.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on Friday cleared the adoption agency that facilitated Max's adoption, finding no violations after an unannounced inspection.

mavdog topcommenter


simple. you make a blanket statement that international adoption is wrong, that international adoption is bad for the adoptee, and blanket statements on an issue as varied and complex such as this are inherently falacious. International adoption can be positive for the child, international adoption can be a good solution to a child interred in an orphange.

You claim that inter-country adoption violates international accords, yet the UN thru UNICEF has validated inter-country adoption as a legal, viable and positive action when a child does not have a family to care for them.

there are many, many children who have benefitted from international adoption. There are some who have not experienced a positive outcome. your personal travails should not be used to deny orphaned children the opportunity to improve their future.

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