By Nomaan Merchant
DALLAS — Russian authorities have blamed “inhuman treatment” for the death of a 3-year-old boy adopted by an American family, but Texas officials say they are still investigating claims that the child was abused before his death.
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 Patrick 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 Ector County Sheriff’s Office in West Texas was investigating.
Crimmins said CPS had received allegations of physical abuse and neglect, but had not determined whether those allegations were true. Sgt. Gary Duesler, spokesman for the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, said no arrests have been made and authorities are waiting for autopsy results.
An obituary for Max Shatto published Jan. 26 by the Midland Reporter-Telegram 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, about 350 miles west of Dallas, 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.
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. A State Department official said the government is aware of the case and “takes very seriously the welfare of children, particularly children who have been adopted from other countries.”
“We will continue to assist the Russian Embassy and consulate officials in making contact with the appropriate authorities in Texas,” said the State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak on the record about the matter.
Crimmins said the Russian consulate had contacted Child Protective Services.
Associated Press writers Merrill Hartson and Pete Yost in Washington and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.