Published February 27, 2013
LUBBOCK, Texas – The adoptive parents of a Russian boy who died last month in West Texas are not responsible for the 3-year-old's death, their attorney said Wednesday.
Max Shatto, who Laura and Alan Shatto adopted last fall along with his younger half brother, was pronounced dead at an Odessa hospital Jan. 21 shortly after an ambulance brought him from the family's home.
Officials with Russia's top investigative agency have said they have questions about the boy's death, which they have blamed on the Shattos. The Shattos' attorney, Michael J. Brown, said the couple "didn't kill anybody."
Laura Shatto told deputies she found Max unresponsive on the ground outside the family's home in Gardendale, about 15 miles north of Odessa. Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson said Wednesday that Laura Shatto had gone inside to use the bathroom and when she came back outside found Max near playground equipment at their home.
Brown said Max was taking doctor-prescribed medication to treat hyperactivity, but his parents don't believe the medication played a role in the toddler's death. Autopsy results are pending.
"I'm just hoping they call it soon," Brown said. "We need some resolution."
Donaldson said the results could come any day.
Texas Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said the agency was investigating allegations Max was subjected to physical abuse and neglect but had not determined whether those allegations were true.
The Shattos adopted Max and 2-year-old Kristopher from the same orphanage in western Russia. Kristopher has remained with his adoptive parents since Max's death.
The Russian government in December passed a ban on all American adoptions of Russian children 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 over the last two decades. At least 20 of those children have died, and reports of abuse have garnered attention in Russia.