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Investigation underway in toddler death - Odessa American: Law Enforcement

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Investigation underway in toddler death

Toddler’s death becoming international incident

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Posted: Monday, February 18, 2013 4:26 pm

The Ector County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the death of a Russian toddler adopted by a Gardendale family; however, few details are known about his death.

Russian authorities are blaming “inhuman treatment” for the death of a 3-year-old boy adopted by the American family, but Texas officials say they are still investigating claims that the child was abused before his death.

Maxim Kuzmin, 3, also identified as Max Alan Shatto, was identified as the child who died on Jan. 21. Russia’s Investigative Committee said Monday that it had opened its own investigation into Maxim’s death. The committee says it has information that the boy was mistreated.

Ector County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Gary Duesler sent out a news release Monday only confirming the investigation and stating the body was sent to Tarrant County for an autopsy. No arrests have been made in connection to the case.

Ector County Medical Examiner’s Chief Investigator Shirley Standefer said Maxim was taken to Medical Center Hospital where he was pronounced dead. CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said the agency was investigating allegations of physical abuse and neglect.

Russia's Investigative Committee said Monday that it had questions about the death of an adoptee authorities identified as Maxim Kuzmin. The committee is the country's top investigative agency.

Texas Child Protective Services spokesman Crimmins confirmed the agency had received a report on Jan. 21 of the death of a 3-year-old named Max Shatto, and that the ECSO was investigating.

Crimmins said CPS had received allegations of physical abuse and neglect, but had not determined whether those allegations were true.

An obituary for Max Shatto published Jan. 26 by the Midland Reporter-Telegram and says he was born on Jan. 9, 2010, in the town of Pskov, near Russia's western border with Estonia. The boy lived with a family in Gardendale before his death on Jan. 21, according to the obituary.

The boy's listed adoptive parents, Alan and Laura Shatto, did not return a phone message Monday. An answering machine at their home said “if you are a reporter calling, we have no comment.”

The death comes weeks after Russia announced it was banning all American adoptions in retaliation for a new U.S. law targeting alleged Russian human-rights violators. The ban also reflects lingering resentment over the 60,000 Russian children adopted by Americans in the past two decades, of which at least 19 have died.

Russian Foreign Ministry official Konstantin Dolgov said in a statement that the boy's death was “yet another case of inhuman treatment of a Russian child adopted by American parents.”

Duesler said he could not immediately confirm or deny Russian allegations of abuse. Most U.S. government offices were closed Monday in observance of a federal holiday.

Dolgov also accused the U.S. Department of State of not helping Russian consular officials investigate the death. The State Department declined to comment. Crimmins said the consulate had contacted Child Protective Services.

Odessa American reporter Nathaniel Miller and Associated Press writers Merrill Hartson in Washington and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

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