Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Can Russia do anything to help its children in US?


The scandal around the death of Maxim Kuzmin, who was adopted from Russia by an American couple, flames up again. American forensic experts concluded that the child's death was just an accident. The Texan authorities do not rule out a possibility of bringing charges against Maxim's adoptive mother.

As it often happens in such ambiguous cases, publications in the media, especially in the American and in Russian outlets, differ from each other considerably.

As reported by the Associated Press, the experts, mostly local hospital doctors, say that the boy died as a result of an accident. However, District Attorney Bobby Bland said that the death occurred due to the rupture of an artery, which occurred as a result of the injury that the boy inflicted on himself. All experts concluded that the death of the child occurred due to the rupture of small bowel mesentery artery that appeared as a result of a blunt trauma to the abdomen. The boy, in general, died from internal bleeding.

According to U.S. experts, the bruises on his body had not been caused with physical violence either. Where did they come from then? To crown it all,  the prosecutor said, there were no drugs found in the child's system.

As it appears from police reports, on January 21, the boy's foster mother Laura Shatto called 911, after she found the child lying motionless in the back yard. Investigators later confirmed that she briefly left the children alone playing in the playground. The child was taken to the district hospital in the town of Odessa. Doctors tried to save the boy, although to no avail. Maxim was pronounced dead.

The results of examinations announced by the sheriff and the prosecutor appear contrary to the allegations of the Russian authorities, including the allegations of the Commissioner for Children's Rights, Pavel Astakhov, who previously claimed that the foster parents gave Maxim a potent psychotropic drug and used physical violence against him. However, Russian media outlets have a rigorous approach to the analysis of the situation. Quite unexpectedly, they find contradictions not only in the "testimony" of the Texan attorney and the U.S. investigation, but also in the work of the bodies responsible for the registration of the adoption of Russian children by Americans.

Thus, according to Russian publications, the Texan authorities will still continue the investigation to establish whether the foster parents committed acts of negligence in relation to the child. Usually, such an investigation takes 30 days, but when it goes about death, it may take longer. Now U.S. experts scrutinize medical records of Maxim Shatto.

American custody agencies currently conduct their own investigation in three areas. Did the children in the Shatto family suffer from physical violence? Were the children left unattended? Is there currently a threat to the brother of Maxim Shatto - Christopher? Noteworthy, after the investigation began, Laura Shatto's communication with the second child was restricted. The woman was allowed to stay in her own house for only a few hours a day.

Interestingly, the adult members of the Shatto family, i.e. the adoptive mother and the adoptive father of the Russian children, do not talk to reporters, either American or Russian, at the insistence of the lawyers.

Texas residents Alan and Laura Shatto adopted Maxim and his brother Kirill (renamed as Christopher after the adoption) from the Pechora orphanage 18 months ago. The boy's biological mother, Julia Kuzmin, who resides in the Pskov region, had been deprived of parental rights. Maxim and his brother were adopted by the American couple. When the story of the boy, who died in the United States, reached mass media, especially the Internet, Julia Kuzmin appeared on a talk show in Moscow.

She swore that she had become different, that she no longer drank and wanted to return her second son from America. However, on the way from Moscow to Pskov, Julia Kuzmin and her faithful companion arranged a drunken brawl on the train, resulting in their delivery to police at an intermediate station.

After this incident, the eloquent talks about the need to return the boy to his mother subsided. However, the options to return Maxim's brother to Russia are still being analyzed, although, they are no longer associated with the name of his mother.

Igor Schmidt, a member of the International Bar Association, PhD, told Pravda.Ru:

"Let us recollect the thing that Russian and American press often forgets. At the request of Pavel Astakhov, the Russian Investigative Committee filed a criminal investigation against American spouses Shatto into the killing of Maxim Kuzmin! So no matter how the case may end in the U.S., the Texan couple will be on trial in Russia until the Russian investigation is given full access to all materials of the case. 

"In this situation, the best solution is to insist the U.S. should allow Russian experts and investigators to take participation in the investigation. And, you know, under international practice it is quite possible. Moreover, such precedents have already been in the past. As far as I know, the Russian Embassy in Washington was informed on the death of a child on February 5, and since then has maintained close contacts with law enforcement agencies in Texas. Employees of the Consulate General of Russia in Houston visited the foster parents of Maxim Kuzmin, and talked to his younger brother. It is up to diplomats to agree with the United States to allow Russian specialists to the investigation. It is possible, despite the fact that the jury in the U.S. brought down supposedly the final verdict saying that there is not enough evidence to charge  Laura and Alan Shatto with manslaughter."

Andrey Mikhailov


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