LINCOLN, Neb. – U.S. authorities will not file charges in the death of a 9-year-old Russian boy who was killed in a house fire while in the care of a couple in Nebraska — an incident that renewed Russian concerns about reports of abuse and a lack of oversight of adoptive American parents.
Anton Fomin died of carbon monoxide and soot inhalation in the May 17 blaze at his legal guardian's home in Davey, a small town about 10 miles north of Lincoln. Russian officials requested more information about Anton's death.
Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly told The Associated Press that investigators could not determine what caused the fire and couldn't find evidence of criminal behavior. The fire started in the northwest corner of the home, and neighbors have said they heard an explosion before it was reported.
"The more severe the fire, the less likely investigators are to find particular causes," Kelly said. "This was a very big fire."
Kelly's office told The Associated Press of the findings ahead of a planned announcement Wednesday morning.
According to Russian officials, at least 17 adopted Russian children have died due to domestic violence at the hand of their adoptive American families in recent years. The country has long demanded that the U.S. tighten controls to prevent the neglect and abuse of Russian adopted kids.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow emphasized that the boy was not adopted by the family in Nebraska and that the family had not brought him from his home country to the U.S.
Anton came to the United States sometime before 2005 with his biological parents. His father died of cancer in 2008, and relatives said his mother could not care for him because of mental health problems. Anton was placed in the care of a family who attended the same church as his parents, and they became his legal guardians.
Andrey Bondarev, a spokesman for the Russian Consulate General in Seattle, said officials wanted to review the investigation results in more detail before commenting on the case.
"It's unfortunate, a terrible accident that happened with a Russian boy," Bondarev said.
Anton was home alone when the house caught fire and he died in his basement bedroom.
His parents told investigators they had made a brief trip to Lincoln to visit relatives and didn't want to wake the sleeping boy. The house was engulfed in flames when they returned.
Russia has long demanded that the U.S. tighten controls over Americans who adopt its children following cases of abuse and neglect. Russian officials have claimed that at least 17 adopted Russian children have died in domestic violence in American families in recent years.
Last month, an American woman who adopted a Russian boy and later sent him back on a one-way flight to Moscow was ordered to pay $150,000 and an additional $1,000 per month in child support until he becomes an adult.
In November 2011, Russian officials expressed outrage at what they considered a lax sentence for a Pennsylvania couple originally charged with murder in the death of their 7-year-old son adopted from Russia. Michael and Nanette Craver were sentenced to 16 months to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
Anton's legal guardian, Slavik Sinchuk, told The Associated Press last month that reports that the boy had been locked in the basement are untrue. Church officials who knew Anton, his parents and legal guardians, said it was wrong to compare his death with the numerous instances of abuse that have troubled Russian officials.
Anton's youth pastor at House of Prayer Church in Lincoln, Oleg Stepanyuk, said the boy was asleep before the fire started. Stepanyuk, who often served as an English translator for the boy, said Anton had grown to love his legal guardians.