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LUBBOCK, Texas—The mother of a dying 3-year-old adopted Russian boy was frantic and crying as she tried to revive her son while EMS personnel raced to her rural West Texas home, a recording released Thursday revealed.
The boy, born Maxim Kuzmin, died Jan. 21 after his mother found him unresponsive outside their home in Gardendale. Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said Max likely suffered the fatal internal injuries to an artery during 10 minutes that Laura Shatto was in the bathroom. Four pathologists reviewed the autopsy report and ruled Max’s death to be accidental.
Officials released the tape of the 20-minute call after grand jurors decided March 18 not to indict Laura Shatto and her husband Alan in their son’s death. Russian officials have expressed disbelief at the decision not to charge the Shattos. They blame the Shattos for the boy’s death, which has become the latest flashpoint in a debate over American adoptions of Russian children.
Laura Shatto told a 911 operator on Jan. 21 that her son wasn’t breathing. Later, she was heard pleading for help as she performed CPR on the boy. Shatto said she wasn’t sure what happened, and that she left Max playing outside while she went to use the bathroom in her home.
She told the operator her son was autistic, self-injurious and on medication. About 18 minutes into the tape without finding a pulse, Shatto, who had a stethoscope with her, told the operator she believed she had a heartbeat.
“It’s really faint,” she told the operator, who then asked her to check the boy’s carotid artery. “I’m not getting anything.”
As time goes on Laura Shatto asks, “Where are they?” referring to EMS personnel, and pleads through apparent sobs to the operator, “Please, I need help.”
Max Shatto’s younger half-brother was nearby during the 911 call, and he can be heard occasionally crying.
“Mama’s not hurting him,” she said to the toddler. “Mama’s trying to help.”
The Shattos, who live in a rural area just outside Odessa, adopted the boy and his half-brother last fall.
Max had more than 30 bruises and other marks on his body as well as signs that he was routinely injured by accident, according to an autopsy report. A medical examiner’s investigator wrote that she found abrasions, scrapes and bruises from head to toe on Max’s body.
Alan Shatto told authorities that Max hit his head against items in the home and had serious behavioral problems. He said a doctor had prescribed the anti-psychotic drug Risperidone, but the couple stopped giving Max the drug after about four days after reading about the side effects and because it appeared the boy was having trouble swallowing.
Laura Shatto reported that three days before his death, Max nearly choked on a cooked carrot. She said he tended to bang his head and claw himself, which she tried to prevent by cutting his nails short and having him wear gloves at night.