WASHINGTON, February 20 (RIA Novosti) New details about the death of a young Russian boy who died last month in Texas indicate the boy and his younger brother may have been playing alone outside their home before the older boy, three-year-old Max Shatto, became unresponsive.
“We know the two kids were playing and the mother was outside, she went inside, and when she came back out again, he was unresponsive,” said Ector County, Texas Sheriff Mark Donaldson in an interview with RIA Novosti.
Donaldson’s office was notified at 4:49 p.m. CST (2249 GMT) on Jan. 21. By the time his deputies arrived, he said, the ambulance was transporting the boy to the Medical Center Hospital emergency room, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.
An investigator met with the mother at the hospital, Donaldson said, while deputies took photos and processed the scene at the home.
Alan and Laura Shatto adopted Max and his brother from Russia in November. The boy’s death has sparked outrage among many Russians.
Russia’s child rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, tweeted on Monday that Max Shatto, also known by his Russian name Maxim Kuzmin, had “numerous injuries,” was given powerful “psychotropic substances,” and had been murdered by his adoptive mother.
“I have no idea where that information came from,” said Donaldson. “There was no media coverage when this first happened,” he said, and while his investigator did meet with Russian officials, “we just told them what we can tell anybody. We don’t have any other information right now, until the autopsy report comes in.”
Later Astakhov admitted the investigation into Shatto’s death has not been completed.
More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by Americans since the early 1990s, according to the US State Department. Russian officials say that 19 of those adopted children, not counting the death of Max Shatto, have died as a direct result of actions by their adoptive parents.
Russian lawmakers say they suspect many more adopted Russian children are abused after they arrive in the United States. Russia banned adoptions by Americans beginning January 1, 2013.
An investigator with the Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office told RIA Novosti Max Shatto had bruises on his body, but she didn’t know if they were the result of routine child’s play or evidence of deeper injuries.
“We knew it immediately that the boy had been adopted from Russia but this is the way I look at it, this isn’t a Russian kid, this is a Texas kid, he lived in my county, he died in my county, he’s my kid and my interest is making sure that if there was something criminally done we do something about it,” Donaldson said.
“But the other side is, we make sure the parents aren’t crucified for something they didn’t do,” he added.
Donaldson did not discuss any injuries the boy may have had or how he might have been injured.
The results of an autopsy are expected within the next few weeks.
This story is updated from an earlier version to reflect new comments from the Sheriff.