Max Shatto, Adopted Russian Boy at Center of an International Dispute, Died of an Accidental "Self Injury," Autopsy Finds

On Friday afternoon, a bit more than a week after fairly high-ranking officials in the Russian government began lobbing allegations of unspeakable child abuse against a Texas couple, authorities have ruled the death of their adopted Russian son an accident.

The Ector County sheriff's and district attorney's offices held a press conference in Odessa today to discuss the findings of the autopsy performed on 3-year-old Max Shatto, who died on January 21.

The cause of death, according to the Ector County medical examiner, was "a laceration to the small bowel mesentery artery due to blunt trauma in the abdomen" that is "consistent with self injury." Bolstering that conclusion was a previously diagnosed behavioral condition that caused Max to hurt himself.

In other words, this was a tragedy. Not a crime.

In a press release, Ector County officials also note that no drugs were found in the boy's system. Russian authorities had asserted that Max's adoptive parents had fed him psychotropic drugs and that his ingestion of Risperdal, an anti-psychotic, may have contributed to his death.

Earlier in the day, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services released the results of its investigation into Fort Worth's Gladney Center for Adoption, which it found had done nothing wrong in placing Max with Laura and Alan Shatto.

The question now is what Russian officials, who used Max's death to support the recent decision to ban U.S. adoptions, will make of this. Will they accept the results of a monthlong investigation, or will they continue to paint the Shatto's as child-killing monsters? We'll know very soon.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson