Friday, December 23, 2011

Ivan Skorobogatov: Cravers Lose Appeal

The Cravaers were back on court this week . Both courts.  The results were as expected.

Wednesday morning, York County Common Pleas Court Judge John S Kennedy, who presided at their trial, denied separate appeals from the Cravers for retrials. The couple, who earlier escaped death penalty specs, was tried for murder, but convicted on lesser charges of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of child endangerment, and conspiracy.  They appealed their case on the flimsy grounds that their convictions were "against the weight of the evidence." The Cravers were charged in the death of their adoptive son Vanya  Skorobogatov  who died of severe beatings and malnutrition  in 2009. In their appeals, the couple argued that with their convictions and probations hanging over their heads, they can't find work and have been forced to move in with friends.  Michael Craver is reportedly an Air Force veteran and an engineer by profession..

Thrown into the pot (which I'd not seen published  before) was the couple's request that their court costs of nearly $100,000 be cut  half.

Some people just don't' know when to quit.when they're ahead.

I disagreed with the flop to involuntary manslaughter and the wrist-slap sentence.  I thought Judge Kennedy equivocated when he said the verdict was appropriate and just.  But he stuck it to the Cravers this time.  It's too bad there's no online transcript.  .From the York Dispatch, Cravers' manslaugahter convictions stand, judge won't reduce $98K court costs,"
Cravers' former home where Vanya was killed

 Kennedy said he wished state law would allow him to order the Cravers to pay the costs of their defense as well. 

But because the Cravers were represented by public defenders and court-appointed counsel, they cannot be billed for defense fees, chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker said. 

"The taxpayers of York County should be reimbursed" for defense costs, as well as prosecution costs, Kennedy said. He noted the Cravers have earning potential, unlike many other defendants who will never be able to pay off their court costs. 

Defense attorneys declined to say how much defense fees totaled, and that information is not available to the public. 

I'm surprised that the public defender costs aren't public information.  They should be.  After all, the public paid the bill. Over 30 years ago I was part of a defense team in a successful  capital murder appeal in Ashtabula County, Ohio. Our costs were around $100,000 in 1978 money.  It should have twice that, but a good part of the work was  pro bono and the defendant went pro se.   The state's cost was over $200,000 and came close to busting the county prosecutor's bank account. Of course, if the Cravers had been able to hire their own lawyers the costs would have taken them on a trip to Mars, and they might have gotten a . They got off cheap and lucky and should be happy.

The Dispatch doesn't mention what the Cravers plan to do now, but the next step, if they pursue it, would  be to take their appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Hours before the Cravers were in York County Common Pleas Court crying  innocent, and poor, the Moscow City Court was busy upholding an earlier ruling refusing to  issue an Interpol arrest warrant on the couple to haul them back to Moscow for a show trial.  The article which appears in different forms from RIA Novosti and  the Russian Legal Inforamtion Agency  (scroll down and hit link) is awkwardly translated in English, and leaves a big hole in the story.  According to both sources, though,  the court also dismissed an appeal filed by Vanya's aunt. This is the first time we've heard of an aunt trying to bring charges.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Masha Allen Discussion

For those interested in the Masha Allen case, a discussion has developed on it at my main blog The Daily Bastardette, Santorum called out on Sandusky During Iowa Speech. The discussion involves her second "Forever Family:  Faith Allen and her continued abandonment by "friends.".

Monday, December 12, 2011

Russian Adoptee Reported Murdered in Canada

Voice of Russia says that a 4-year old Russian-Canadian  adoptee  named Sasha, has been beaten to death by the live-in boyfriend of his Forever Mother.

Saturday, Russian Children's  Rights Commissioner Pavel Astakhov sent a  tweet about  the death which I've read, but offered no other details, and as of this writing there are no additional messages.  No statement has  been published by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science in either Russian or English or by TAR-Tass News Agency or any other Russian online source.  . 

I'll be watching this story.

UPDATE: One of my readers, Andraya Charette has pointed out to me that this is an old case from 2002--but that the Russian government  has only now has become aware of it.  The little boy's name was Sacha Valee.  I have some more information on the case, but it's late, so I'll put it up tomorrow probably..

Andraya pointed me to an article published today by the Russian Legal Information Agency (l'l be linking that  publication permanently in my sidebar on Niko) article, Children's Ombudsman reports death of Russian-born child adopted in Canada..  The article quotes RIA Novisti, which wasn't listed when I googled earlier this evening:

"It is an old case. It happened in 2002, but it became known only now," Astakhov told RIA Novosti.

According to him this case was uncovered by a group set up to monitor the status of the adopted children.

On Saturday Astakhov said he did not rule out imposing a moratorium on children's adoption and relocation to the United States before the US - Russian adoption agreement is ratified.

He said a dangerous situation has developed abroad when a huge number of violations of Russian-born children's rights keeps on growing. He also emphasized the gravest situation over children's rights violations can be seen in the United States.

The haphazard way in which the murders of Russian adoptees  is reported to the Russian government is alarming to say the least. Just how many murders have occurred that we don't know about (even if they are reported locally)  in the US, Canada, or other countries? .Since the Russians have formed a monitoring group, we may be hearing of more soon.

Astakhov also brought up a case of sexual abuse which boggles the mind.  I'll be looking for more on this:

According to his information there is an American family which adopted 21 girls from Russia with the purpose of sexually abusing them. "We have found out dozens of such case now," the ombudsman said.

If this is true, the Russian courts fall down on the job, too. 

Much thanks to Andraya Charette!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Since 1996, 7 Russian children have died at the hands of their forever families. Except for Dmitry Yakolev/Chase Harrison, all were victims of physical abuse, starvation, and systematic torture by adults who were judged by the US adoption industry and the US and Russian governments to be fit to adopt someone else's children. The Polreis case attracted national attention, but most cases, until recently, have rarely gotten more than a few lines. The Russian press has covered some, but not all of the cases, and covered the Harrison case extensively. Lately it has covered the Dykstra and Craver classes.  The Russian Investigate Committee is now looking into some if not all of the cases, and threatening to take action on its own.  Though it is highly unlike that Russian courts will accede to the wishes of the IC, the investigations and threats are indicative of the anger and frustration the Russian government has with Russian-US cross-country adoption.

Below is a summary of the legal outcomes of the 17 cases on record. . These summaries are taken from the larger account of each case found at my Forever Family, Forever Dead blog entry. There are also many links to these cases in the larger summary. Outside of Peggy Sue Hilt and Gary and Amy Thompson,  the sentences have been relatively short and most of the forever parents are now on the street. I have no idea what the average sentence is for killing your child. I do know there is great disparity not only amongst states but amongst jurisdiction for killing children, so I can't say that these bad sentences reflect a general trend or are just what they are. Whatever, it is shocking to see that monsters like Robert and Brenda Matthey  and Heather Lindorff out and about.  Her husband, however,  checked into the Gray Bar Hotel himself after he was convicted of trying to hire a hitman to kill a witness in the family's earlier trial.

 This entry is a backgrounder for my own future writings and is also intended as a guide to domestic and international media t and scholars who check in here.  When pictures of the dead children are available, I have included them here. Pictures of the forever parents, whenever available are placed below "Outcome."

. ****** 
age 2, Greeley, Colorado. Died February 9, 1996; beaten and cut over 90% of his body.

OUTCOME: Adoptive mother Renee Polreis was convicted of child abuse resulting in death and sentenced to 18 years in prison. In 2000 her sentence was reduced; she was paroled in 2005.

 LOGAN HIGGINBOTHAM (birth name unknown) 
age 3, Shelburne, Vermont. Died November 25, 1998 of massive head injuries. The medical examiner was unable to determine if death was an accident or homicide. Three years later police reopened the case with other medical experts and concluded that Logan's head had been intentionally slammed into a wall.

OUTCOME: In 2004, Laura Higginbotham pled no contest to a charge of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 1 year in prison. She will remain on parole until her older daughter, Layne also adopted from Russia is 18. Higginbotham has divorced, remarried, and has a biological child.


 ge 6, Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Died October 31, 2000 of cardiac arrest due to hypothermia after adoptive parents Robert and Brenda Matthey locked him overnight in a damp unheated pump room; also suffered over 40 cuts, scrapes, bruises and untreated fractures. Robert Matthey admitted beating Viktor with an aluminum baseball bat, a belt, 2 whips, and his open hand

OUTCOME: Jury acquitted the couple on evidence tampering charges; deadlocked on manslaughter charges, but convicted them of lesser abuse. Both sentenced to 10 years in prison for confining Viktor to the pump room, 10 years for inflicting excessive corporal punishment and 7 years for failing to provide medical care. The sentences were to run concurrently. Brenda Matthey was released from prison on November 1, 2008. Robert Matthey was released on November 7, 2008.

LUKE EVANS, (birth name unknown) 
age 1.5, Lowell, Indiana. Died November 30, 2001 of massive head injuries, shaken baby syndrome, and poor nutrition.

OUTCOME: On June 30, 2006 Natalie Fabian Evans was found not guilty of murder, battery and neglect of a dependent after a doctor for the defense convinced a jury that Luke could have had "bleeding in his brain for days prior to the day" he was found unresponsive in his crib.Evans and her husband divorced during the proceedings.

 JACOB LINDORFF, (birth name unknown)
age 5, Gloucester Twp., New Jersey. Died December 14, 2001 of blunt force trauma to head. Also suffered from 2nd degree burns on feet, hemorrhaging in 1 eye; bruises, and seizures.

OUTCOME: Adoptive mother Heather Lindorff, 36, was found guilty of 2nd degree endangering, aggravated assault. She was sentenced to 6 years. She claimed the injuries were accidents and begged judge not to separate her from her family. Adoptive father, James, 54, sentenced to 4 years probation and 400 hours of community service for child abuse. In May 2004, Heather Lindorff was released on appeal bond and ordered not to visit her children without supervision. That same month DYFS learned that children were back living with the Lindorffs. Medical examinations found four children were malnourished, abused, and neglected. Heather Lindorff was released from prison on November `6, 2009. In September 2007, James Lindorff and Mildred Cullinan were charged in a murder-for-hire plot to kill a witness at the Lindorff trial. On August 7, 2008 James Lindorff was convicted and sentenced to a maximum of 7 years with a minimum term of 5 years 11 months and 12 days. He will be eligible for parole on April 16, 201.  His mother-in-law Mildred Cullinan pled down to a charge of hindering an investigation and was sentenced to 90 days in jail

JESSICA ALBINA HAGMANN (birth name unknown) 
age 2 years, 7 months, Prince William County, Virginia. Died August 11, 2003 of mechanical asphyxia due to compression against an adult: lack of blood and oxygen possibly due to "holding therapy"performed by her adoptive mother Patrice Lynne Hagmann.

OUTCOME: In December 2003 Patrice Hagmann took an Alford plea ( pleading no contest, without acknowledging guilt). Prosecutors recommended 14 years in prison, In January 2004 the court sentenced her to five years for each charge, suspended dependent on five years probation.

age 2, Braintree, Massachusetts. Died August 15, 2002 of severe trauma to the head. Jacob had a bilateral skull fracture, a massive stroke on the right side of his brain, a smaller stroke on left side, brain swelling and detached retinas.

OUTCOME: Adoptive mother Natalya Higier pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail, with 18 months balance of sentence suspended for 4 years; also required to attend anger management classes.

MARIA ANASTASIA BENNETT, (birth name unknown)
age 2,  Lancaster, Ohio. Died October 23, 2002 of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Medical evidence indicated fatal head wounds and eye injuries could not be caused by such a drop.

OUTCOME: Bennett pled no contest to 1 count of reckless homicide. She originally faced 8 years in prison. Prosecutors recommended 4 years, but said they would not oppose probation after 2 years served. Bennett was sentenced to 3 years.

age 3, Galloway, Ohio. Died October 16, 2003 at Columbus Doctors Hospital West of scalding and neglect. Five days earlier, adoptive father, Gary Allen Thompson, put Liam in a bathtub of 140 degree water causing 2nd and 3rd degree burns; skin peeled off legs. Instead of seeking treatment Thompson put him on a crib mattress in an unheated basement. Adoptive mother, LPN Amy Lynn Thompson, whose diary revealed she didn't like Liam or his adopted sister, failed to notice the seriousness of burns for 2 days, then treated him with Tylenol and Vaseline. Liam was taken to the hospital only when he went into respiratory failure. Autopsy revealed severe burns on both legs, right arm, back, and buttocks; bruises on neck, right side of upper lip, right eye, both cheeks and forehead. The official cause of death is listed as "thermal injuries."

OUTCOME: Amy Thompson pled guilty to child endangering and involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. She is currently incarcerated in the Marysville Reformatory for Women and is scheduled for release on October 9, 2017.. Gary Thompson pled guilty to murder and was sentenced to 15-life. His first parole hearing will be in August 2018.

age 6, Schaumburg, Illinois. Died December 19, 2003 of severe beating. Adoptive mother Irma Pavlis admitted to punching Alex hard in the stomach and slapping him.

OUTCOME: Irma Pavlis sentenced to 12 years for involuntary manslaughter. She was paroled on March 28, 2008 and resides out of state. She was released from released from parole on March 29, 2009.

 age 8, Harford County, Maryland. Died January 22, 2005 of cardiac arrest brought on by starvation; weighed 37 pounds, 2 pounds less than when doctors examined him in October 2000. Medical examiner could find no underlying conditions and ruled death a homicide.

OUTCOME: On April 17, 2008, adoptive parents Samuel and Donna Merryman On April 17, 2008 they were each sentenced to 22 years in prison.  Samuel is currently incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown; Donna is at Patuxent Correctional Mental Health Center in Jessup.

 age 2.5, Wake Forest, North Carolina. Died July 2, 2005 on A visit to Manassas, Virginia, from blows to the abdominal area. Adoptive mother, Peggy Sue Hilt, 33, told investigators she was "enraged and angered" at Nina, shook her, dropped her on floor, kicked her in the stomach, then picked her up, put her in bed and continued to strike her with a closed right fist on her back and stomach

OUTCOME: On May 25, 2006, Hilt was sentenced to 35 years in prison with 10 years suspended; will serve 21-22 years due to time served awaiting trial.She is currently incarcerated at the Fluvanna Correction Center for Women in Troy, Virginia.  Her expected release date is October 6, 2022.



 age 21 months, Iowa City. Died August 14, 2005 , the day after he was hospitalized for injuries reportedly incurred from an accidental fall a few days earlier. On August 7, 2008, after a nearly 3-year investigation, adoptive father, Brian Dykstra, 31, was charged with 2nd degree murder.

OUTCOME: Dykstra released on bond. Due to the complexity of the case the prosecution and defense asked for several postponements over the next three years. As a result,  Dykstra didn't go to trial until the end of October 2011. On November 3, 2011, despite a preponderance of evidence from doctors, nurses, police, and pathologists that  in their opinion he killed Ilya, Dykstra was acquitted of all charges. Judging from news reports, the jury appeared to prefer the testimony of character witnesses.over scientific evidence. Dykstra and his wife, Dr. Lisa DeWaard Dykstra are now divorced, but she testified for the defense. Nearly a month after the verdict, on December 3, 2011.  the Russian Investigative Committee, announced it was opening a case file on Dykstra and doing its own investigation.  According to numerous Russian sources, the US State Department, contrary to agreement, had never informed Russian authorities about Ilya's death.and they heard about it only after the trial was over.

age 14 months, Tooele, Utah. Died March 7, 2008 from a "significant skull fracture" caused by blunt force trauma. Adoptive mother, Kimberly Emelyantsev 33, charged with murder.  Charles against her husband, Fyodor, a Russian national, were dropped. During her post-conviction psychiatric evaluation she admitted grabbing Kolya by an arm and leg and repeatedly slamming him in the floor. Kolya suffered from Down Syndrome.

OUTCOME: Kimberley Emelyantsev, pled guilty to a lowered charge of 2nd degree felony child abuse homicide. On October 10, 2008 she was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. I can find no current information on Emelyantsev's whereabouts (she should still be in prison), but  according to his Facebook page,  husband Fyodor Emelyantsev  has returned to Russia and is living in Novosibirsk.


age 21 months, Purcellville, Virgina. Died July 8, 2008 in Herndon, Virginia after adoptive father Miles Harrison, 49, left him in SUV for nine hours in up to 91 degree heat. Temperature inside anywhere between 131-172,.

Outcome:  On December 18, 2008 Miles Harrison was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter in a bench trial.

 age 7. Dillsburg/Carroll Township, Pennsylvania. Died August 25, 2009 at Penn State Hershey Medical Center after being taken off life support. The autopsy revealed Vanya suffered 80 external injuries, including 20 to the head. Old injuries, including fractures to his forehead and old blood beneath his scalp were found. The coroner also found evidence of malnourishment and "severe failure to thrive." Adopters Michael 45 and Nanette Craver, 54, say that Vanya caused injuries to himself.

 OUTCOME: On February 26, 2010 Michael and Nanette Craver were arrested and charged with criminal homicide, conspiracy, and child endangerment. The prosecutor considered seeking indictments with death penalty specifications, claiming that Vanya's death constitution torture,  but later took that option  off  the table.  The couple were held in the York County Prison without bond until their trial in September 2011. Like the Dykstracase, despite a preponderance  of evidence to the contrary, the Cravers were acquitted of first degree murder, but unlike Dykstra were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, and conspiracy.  In November they  were sentenced to five years in prison with time served. They are currently on parole and attempting to regain custody of Vanya's twin sister, Dasha. After the sentencing hearing, the Russian Investigative Committee, outraged at the outcome of the trial announced it would seek to extradite the Cravers and try them on murder charges in Moscow. A Russian court ruled against the CI, but it is still investigating the case.  On December 2, the Cravers  filed separate appeals of their sentences and demanded new trials. If they win their appeals, which is doubtful, they can only be retried on the involuntary manslaughter charge, and if found guilty again, be sent to prison for up to10 years.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Vanya Skorbogatov. Cravers ask for new trial; want custody of Dasha

The Russian Investigative Committee  (IC) isn't the only one demanding that the Cravers get a new trial.

Last week Michael and Nanette Craver, convicted last month of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their adopted Russian son Vanya Skorobogatov  filed separate post-sentencing appeals with Judge John S. Kennedy, the presiding judge of their trial.  They argue that the verdicts were "against the weight of the evidence."  The appeals are not online, but according to the York Dispatch, Cravers ask judge to overturn their convictions and grant them new trials,:the couple argues:

 prosecutors presented no evidence to show either parent physically abused Nathaniel, other than testimony from a forensic pathologist who said he believed the injuries were intentionally inflicted.... 

 ...The forensic pathologist testifying for the defense told jurors there was no evidence the injuries were intentionally inflicted, and a number of medical experts testified to Nathaniel's "numerous and serious medical and mental-health conditions," including self-injury, according to Michael Craver's motion

The jury didn't buy  that argument and found the couple guilty of involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and conspiracy. The couple was originally charged with first degree murder, with an option of death penalty specifications..

If the Cravers' appeal is granted, they can be re-tried only on the charges of which they were convicted, . BUT if they lose again, they could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, rather than their current cushy time-served awaiting trial.

The Cravers obviously don't' know when to quit, especially since their case is edging into international incident territory due to the IC's attempt to extradite them to Moscow for a taste of Russian justice--and to take custody of Vanya's twin sister Dasha Skorobogatova in the process.  Dasha, still a Russian citizen, as was Vanya,  is currently, in  the care of an adoptive aunt..

My educated guess is that  Judge Kennedy will not grant the appeal motions since he, agreed with the  verdict:
"It was an appropriate and just verdict," he said. "The physical evidence ... did not establish there was intentional infliction of injuries on Nathaniel. ... Certainly there was reasonable doubt presented."

If Kennedy doesn't grant the motions, the next step will be to take the case to the Pennsylvania Superior Court for consideration.

The Cravers legal team says the couple maintains their innocence and want to prove it, but also need an acquittal  to re-gain custody of Dasha, whom they  haven't seen since their arrest in February. 2010.  Rick Robinson, one of Nanette Craver's lawyers. who said last month that the sentence was fair and reasonable, now backpedaling.  He says he clients are concerned that their convictions: 

establish the ability for Children and Youth (caseworkers) to attempt to terminate their parental rights for (the girl),"  "They want to have contact with their daughter." 

To add to the Craver's woes, they are currently unemployed and unemployable due to their conviction. They are now living with friends, which might mean they lost their home.

In so many words,  the Cravers still insist that Vanya killed himself.

Let's stop right now!  

I'm not going to go through all the trial testimony, most of it damming for the Cravers,  but  let's just take the autopsy alone.  This is how  pathologist Wayne K Ross, who performed the post-mortem on Vanya, described his condition durung  the Craver's preliminary hearing, as reported in the April 29, 2010 York Daily Record.

WARNING:  Graphic language ahead 
 Ross said the injuries to Nathaniel's swollen head were caused by repetitive blunt force trauma. He made the same observation as to the numerous bruises on the boy's arms, legs, chest, abdomen and torso.

The only part of the boy's body the pathologist did not take note of was the bottom of his feet.

Pictures taken at Hershey Medical Center by Carroll Township Police Sgt. John Schreiner reportedly showed an emaciated boy with gauze covering his head where surgeons had removed a piece of his skull to relieve the pressure on his swollen brain.

The exhibits - 18 hospital and autopsy photos and a cat scan - were passed by Barker to the defense attorneys and the district justice. They were not visible to onlookers in the courtroom.

Ross said the boy "looked like he was starved to death" and had "less than a millimeter" of body fat at the time of his death.

The pathologist said the boy's face and head were distorted by swelling and looked "like a balloon." 

Nathaniel also had a "classic cauliflower ear" normally seen on a wrestler, he said...

...Ross's other findings included anemia, brain scarring, indications that the boy's shoulders and hips had been dislocated and that he had been bound at the wrists and ankles. He said the time of the injuries ranged from the 24 hours before being taken to the hospital to up to two months earlier.

under cross,

Nanette Craver's attorney David Hershey asked Ross if Nathaniel being diagnosed with reattachment disorder, the lack of a nurturing environment in a Russian orphanage and whether the boy was self-destructive and taking anti-psychotic medications would affect his findings.

Ross suggested deferring the psychological questions to an expert in that field. He then explained that anyone seeing Nathaniel over a period of time would have noticed the drastic change in his appearance and health.

Ross said the final injury to Nathaniel's head that necessitated taking him to the hospital required "hundreds of pounds of force."

He added the bruising patterns on the boy's head, back and abdomen "were inconsistent with self-abuse."

Dr. Ross also testified at the trial.. From the Harrisburg Patriot-News/  Doctor describes Craver's injuries to York County jury:

After nearly two hours on the witness stand, Dr. Wayne K. Ross circled his main point.

The Dauphin County forensic pathologist had performed the autopsy on Nathaniel Craver in 2009. He had spent Wednesday morning detailing the injuries he found on the 7-year-old’s body.

Nathaniel’s head: “I don’t just mean a little bit of swelling. I mean the entire skull and head looked to me like a watermelon or an alien.”

Nathaniel’s brain: “The bottom line is, it was soft as anything. When you look at the pictures of the brain we took at autopsy, it was purple and dead ... it was flat and mushy. It was horrible.”

He found evidence that muscles had torn near Nathaniel’s shoulder and hip joints from being pulled. He found marks indicating the boy had been bound at his feet and wrists.

He found bruising on Nathaniel’s torso and back showing the boy had been struck with a “tool type” device over a period of weeks. He found an untreated broken rib. He found “lakes of blood” under Nathaniel’s skull. To get there, Nathaniel’s head must have been struck repeatedly.

In the weeks before his death, Ross testified, Nathaniel was starving....

...Was it possible, Barker asked, for Nathaniel to have done this to himself?

It went to the heart of the defense case. Michael and Nanette Craver have maintained their adopted Russian son constantly abused himself. It was a manifestation of deep physical and psychological issues stemming from a harsh early life in Russia, conditions the Cravers have said they could not stop.

Ross did not hesitate.

“The abuse I see is due to the direct action of another,” Ross said, “not self-abuse.” 

Other medical, police, and family backed up Ross on various points..

I really don't see how this evidence can be refuted, despite the defense's expert witness who claimed it was impossible to tell how Vanya was injured. Pathologists do make mistakes, but Vanya's injuries are so massive and extended they cannot be dismissed as self-inflicted. Especially by a 7-year old.

Clearly the jury, though flawed with its involuntary manslaughter verdict, believed that the Cravers were responsible for Vanya/s death through abuse or negligence..  A re-trial won't change that. Whatever happened Michael and Nanette Craver were lousy parents who either caused Vanya's death directly or indirectly. I believe directly.

I haven't yet, found an IC reaction to the Craver's demand for a new trial. The appeals have been reported by the Russian press so we know the IC  and Russian Children's Rights Commission director Pavel Askakov know--just in case the US State Deparmtnet didn't know about it.

This is a wrap-up video of the sentencing. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

More Problems for Russian-US Adoption Relations: Russians claim they only learned of Dkystra case after the trial

The other day I wondered why the Russian government  hadn't commented on last month's acquittal of Brian Dykstra, charged with murdering his adoptive Russian son, Isaac Jonathan Dykstra.  Now we know why.

The Russian government didn't know about the case!

 I almost find this too fantastic to believe.

Isaac (whose birth name has now been revealed in the Russia press as Ilya Kargyntsev), died in 2005 after being in the US for only three months.. Under Russian-US adoption agreements, the US government is required to report the death of any Russian adoptee immediately to appropriate Russian Federation authorities. Remember that's how back in 2008, European Adoption Consultants got in trouble   (see other EAC posts in right sidiebar for more) after the accidental death of  Dmitri Yakolev/Chase Harrison. The agency failed to report the death in a timely manner that satisfied the Russians.  'm not sure if that agreement was in force at the time of Ilya's death, but it's been negotiated since and more safeguards (for what they're worth) are waiting to be ratified by the State Duma, Common sense tells us the death should have been reported, even late, if for no other reason than to try to look honest and to smooth out Russian-US adoption relations.Certainly if adoption "officials" on either side didn't know about Illya's death and the six year long investigation and trial, the unnamed adoption agency that handled the placement did, and had a duty to report it to the Education Ministry. What's the name of the agency, and where does it stand in all this?

I have been writing about the Dkystra case since 2008 when Brian Dkystra was charged and  the story burst out of its Iowa City news ghetto, Nikto and the Daily Bastardette get frequent hits from the US State Department and Russian government sites (though it's not possible to tell which sites) and I find it hard to believe that one or both didn't stumble on the Dykstra case in their surf..  (Not to be  facetious (but I will be anyway) perhaps the State Department and the Ministry pf Education and Science should put me on the payroll.  I'll be happy to report any abuse of Russian adoptees I find.)

Whatever, the cat is out now. 

On December 2, Russian Federation Children's Rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakov sent several tweets about the Dykstra case, which he reportedly learned about  by accident.  

For expediencey, I am using the ITAR-Tass translation. of those tweets.  You can read all of Astakov's tweets on the case in Russian at his Twitter account (in Russian)  Here's a couple of them as reported by the news agency, with my emphasis:

 The boy died on August 14, 2005, and the investigation had been going on ever since. However, the U.S. authorities did not inform of it the Russian diplomatic mission, the consulate or the Ministry of Education and Science, which handles the adoption of Russian children by foreigners,” 

Astakhov reported. The U.S. officials found it possible to make the case public only after the jury passed the verdict of not guilty.
 The Americans expressed regret over their inability to organize the timely information of the Russian authorities about the death of our little citizen (all the children, adopted in Russia, continue to be Russian citizens until they come of age), or the proper protection of the rights of the children, who fall victim to the offences,”

What can we even say about that last statement?  "...inability  to organize timely information?"  This was information I've been writing about for three years and that adoption reform advocates were quite familiar with. It's been posted on Facebook for pete's sake!  Yet the State department knew nothing? This simply is not acceptabale.

And if it's not true...

Either way,  State has some big explaining to doДля Павел Алексе́евич: Не доверяйте Государственного департамента США. Прочитано Никто не забыт - ничто не забыто. Мы говорим правду!

Astakov's official  statement (in Russian) appears on the Russian-lanauge page of the Ministry of Education and Science, the agency that oversees Russian adoptions . Unfortunatley, it does not appear  yet on the English lanauge page.  (I'll keep looking) In the meantime, I'll  use English lanauge versions of Itar-Tass and Russian publications.

Astakov told Reuters:

The American authorities have only now informed us (of this case). For almost six years they were silent and said nothing. It is inexcusabl,"...Nineteen of our children have died," Astakhov said referring to all deaths of Russian-born children in the U.S. since 1991. "This situation is a permanent fiasco."

In the past, Astakov has seemed willing to negotiate terms of adoption with the State Department, indicating that he wanted to see Russia-US adoption continue, but demanding  regulations and enforcement tightened up.  His latest statement from the Ministry indicates a harder, and for me, welcome stance.  It's nice to find a masculine voice in otherwise weepy AdoptionLand:

  “the dangerous trend of the acquittal (this is not the first such case) and of keeping away from criminal responsibility of the American foster parents, who permitted the death of adopted Russian children deliberately or unintentionally, puts up insurmountable obstacles on the way of further adoption of Russian children by Americans and may result in its banning altogether.” (ITAR-Tass translation)

The Russian Investigative Committee, already  running an investigation of the Craver debacle, has announced that it is opening a case file on Bian Dykstra. The IC press release is available in Russian only.   It says in rough translation:
...our job is to protect the interests, life and health of Russian citizens and take comprehensive measures to bring the perpetrators to the established norms of the Russian and international law of responsibility. In addition, the leadership of the Investigative Committee agreed with the Commissioner of the President of the Russian Federation for Children's Rights Pavel Astakhov for the prevention of crimes against Russian children adopted by American parents, to develop a mechanism to track their fate.

Reuters reports that the US State Department is preparing a response to Astakov's statement  We can't wait.  

Also see RIA Novosti


Michael and Nanette Craver are up to some new shenanigans, but I'm saving that for a separate blog post.that will be out shortly.

I'm having some technical problems updating the Memoriam and summary of cases/killers.  I hope to have that fixed in the next day or so.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ivan Skorobogatov: Investigative Committee Rejects Court Ruling; Intends to Continue Craver and Possibly Other Prosecutions

The Russian Investigative Committee (IC), undetered by yesterday's decision by Moscow's Basmanny Court and the Russian General Prosecutor, to dismiss IC's petition to extradite  Michael and Nanette Craver, has declared its intent to continue its prosecution of the couple even if the prosecution has  been ruled "illegal.."(see blog directly below this for details)

According to RIA Novisti,  Vladimir Markin, spokesperson for the IC said the investigation in to the Cravers will continue no matter what the court rules:

"The refusal of a Russian court to arrest the Cravers in absentia will not hinder further investigation of the criminal case in Russia, as well as the international efforts to find the suspects, detain and extradite them,” 

He said that though international laws prohibit a second sentence for the same crime, it applies only to legal procedures in one state, within the national jurisdiction.

I have no idea what this second paragraph means.  It appears to be a deliberate misreading of US and international law, and the Basammy and General Prosecutor's office's interpretation of both..  There is simply no way for the Cravers to be retried here. Unless there was  unique jurisdaictional stipulation in the adoption agreement  that gave  Russian authorities some kind of authority in legal matters concerning Vanya and his twin sister Dasha, which is I  highly doubt, they can't be tried by Russian courts in absentia or in person. 

The IC is also taking up Dasha's status:

RIC chief Alexander Bastrykin sent letters to Russian presidential human rights council head Mikhail Fedotov and human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to initiate proceedings to strip the Cravers of parental rights with respect to Ivan’s sister, Dasha.

It is important to ensure Dasha’s early return to Russia, Bastrykin wrote.

Again, it's unclear what the IC thinks it can accomplish, if indeed it wants to accomplish anything. (see last section).  Here are some of the hard fact whether people like them or not:

Dasha came to the US  in 2003 at the age of 18 months. She has no parents in Russia to return to, only an understaffed, ill-equipped and abusive orphan system.. By Russian standards she is damaged  from her American experience and  unadoptable . The adoption was finalized years ago and Dasha holds dual citizenship until she is 18.

Dasha is currently in foster care.  (The New York Times says she's living with an adoptive aunt). York County prosecutors asked the judge in the Craver trial to order  the couple to have no contact with Dasha until she is 18, but the judge said he would leave the decision up to child welfare officials.  Earlier reports suggest  that Children's Services  has no enthusiasm for returning her to the Cravers custody, though there is no indication at this time it will seek to terminate their rights, either.  The only contact Dasha has had with the Cravers since their arrest in February 2010 has been  through supervised correspondence
.If rights were terminated here--which I think they should be--Dasha would probably remain with the aunt in a foster or adoptive situation or be re-homed in a second stranger adoption. If she is returned (she won't be), she'll most likely  in a few years end up in the sex trade or sweatshop where huge numbers of orphanage girls end up. 


Without getting too Russian...
Clearly something else is going on here.  I'll suggest that Vanya, Dasha, the Cravers and we are being bumbled through the fetid labyrinth that passes for Russian politics.

 The Investigation Committee is the main federal investigating authority in the Russian Federation.  It was formed in January 2011 an an "independent" body  to replace the Investigation Committee of the Prosecutor of the Russian Federation which like its predecessors,the KGB and NKVD,  investigated and prosecuted cases in whatever way it pleased. In  theory, then, the IC was set up to streamline criminal justice by separating  investigation from prosecution and to dilute the immense authority the Prosecutor General's office had accumulated.  It has been compared to the FBI, but it's not.

I 'd like a better source, but for now I'll let Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty  pick it up from there to show you the mess::

The prosecutor-general, meanwhile, has been stripped of his authority to direct investigations, seize property, and initiate criminal cases.  [Prosecutor General Yuriy} Chaika,  for example, cannot launch criminal proceedings against Bastrykin -- although Bastrykin can launch proceedings against him. 

Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Moscow-based Panorama think tank told RFE.RL:
"Formally this organization (IC) is part of the Prosecutor-General's Office, but in fact, if you look at the amount of power he has, [IC Director Aleksandr Ivanovich] Bastrykin,  is in fact another prosecutor-general," Pribylovsky said. "And his role can get even stronger. If [the Investigative Committee] takes over all the other investigative agencies and creates a truly unified Investigative Committee, then it will have enormous power," Pribylovsky added. 

I've been puzzled by the interest the IC has taken in the Craver case, and this layout of the IC clears up some of my puzzlement..  Not that the case isn't worthy of scrutiny, but by US and  international law standards the attempt to haul the Cravers off to Moscow (or just try them in absentia) is headline inducing, but pointless unless the IC  plans to make an international incident and kidnap  the couple. The likelihood, of that happening, of course, is nil, since the IC falls under the direct authority of the President of Russia, which in a few more months will again be (as if he isn't now in all but name) Vladimir Putin.who just happens to be IC Director Bastrykin old law school classmate.

I think two things (and probably more) are going on here.

(1) The IC is acting in response to pressure from State Duma members, nationalists, and probably some IC bigwigs, who desperately want to ban cross-country adoption--or at least adoption to the US. The Ministry of Education and Pavel  Astakhov have made it clear, however, that they do not want US adoption shut down--just tightened to Russia's advantage. Squeezing every drop they can out of the Cravers can't hurt. They deserve it.

(2)  The Craver prosecution is just  another cog in the power struggle between the IC and the Prosecutor General.'s office.  Although in theory the IC and the Prosecutor General work side-by-side, they are at opposite ends in the Craver case  (and mostly likely a lot of other cases) with the Prosecutor telling the IC to take a hike and the IC standing its ground.. I don't see this changing the near future.  Too much power is a stake.

As if to make my point, the IC  announced today that it plans to investigate more cases of Russian adoptee abuse in the United States:

 The Russian Investigation Committee (IC) is going to institute criminal proceedings on several more facts of the encroachment on the life of Russian children, adopted by American nationals,

Specificaly cited was Michael Grismor, accused of raping his 15-year old stepdaughter Kseneia., a case I haven't written about, but need to. And I have to wonder why there is not a peep about the Dykstra verdict. Sure that is a heinous as the Craver walk-away.

Vanya, Dasha, Ksenia, and other Russian orphans killed and abused  by their Forever Families are a sympathetic front for inside- the- ring-power players..  That doesn't mean that those involved are cold-hearted creeps,  though they might be, only that these kids are a cat's paw for something bigger.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ivan Skorobogatov. Russian Court and Prosecutors Refuse to Issue Warrant for Michael and Nanette Craver; Vanya Victim of "RAD" Quackery?

Russian media reports tonight that  the Moscow Bassamy District Court, backed by the Russian Prosecutor General's Office. has refused to issue a warrant for the in abstensia arrest and trial of Michael and Nannette Craver in the death of their Forever Son, Vanya  Skorobogatov. (Nathaniel Craver)  Citing double jeopardy, the court said any prosecution of the Cravers by Russian authorities would be "illegal;."

The Cravers, originally charged with homicide (with aborted death penalty specifications), conspiracy and child endangerment,  were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in September, and in mid-November were sentenced to time served and  3/1 years probation.. An autopy revealed 80 injuries to the boy including 20 to his head.

The Russian Investigative Committee placed the couple on INTERPOL's wanted list (they have never appeared on the online INTERPOL list) and called for their arrest and trial in absentia.


The prosecutor explained that the U.S. citizens had already been convicted on this case in their native country, "which means that they cannot be prosecuted for the same crime in Russia". Therefore, the prosecutor’s representative (Vanya  said that he objects to the arrest of the U.S. citizens in absentia. In connection with the verdict earlier passed to the Craver couple in Pennsylvania and in accordance with Article 12 of the Russian Criminal Code the couple are not subject to prosecution on the territory of the Russian Federation, and their arrest in the status of defendants is illegal, the source said.

The investigation’s appeal to arrest the Cravers contains neither necessary data about their personality nor confirms that they are in hiding, the prosecutor said. "There are no grounds to put them into custody as a remand sanction," he stressed.

There is nothing yet in the online version of the Craver's hometown newspaper, the York Daily Record.

This decision comes as no surprise. As I wrote earlier, I didn't see how double jeopardy and the fact that the death occurred on US soil would be prosecutable in Russia. So, as much as we'd like to see justice for Vanya, legally the case is now closed.


In a related matter, one of my readers, sent a comment to Nikto regarding Vanya and "attachment therapy."  As longtime readers may know, some (and I suspect all or nearly all)  Russian adoptees killed by their Forever Families were either "officially" diagnosed with "RAD"  or adopter-diagnosed and treated on the fly.. I wrote about this in The Therapeutic Murders of Candace Newmaker, David Polreis, Viktor Matthey, and Jessica Albina Hagmann.

Below is the comment I received regarding Vanya..  I haven't had the time to look into this more yet, but will. In the meantime:.

 LindaRosaRN has left a new comment on your post "Ivan Skorobogatov Update: Cravers Aren't Talking; ...":

Thank you for writing about this case.

I might add that Nathaniel was caught up in the infamous Attachment Therapy. As long time readers know, many of the Russian adoptees killed by their Forever Families, were eithre diagnosted officialy  with "RAD" or adopteres took it upon themselves to self-diagnose an self-treat.  I wrote about this in

Attachment Therapist Lark Eshleman (certified school psychologist) was recommended to the Cravers by a prestigious Philadelpia hospital. In her book, Eshleman uses Attachment Therapy's unofficial, catch-all definition of "Reactive Attachment Therapy," which demonizes adoptees. At the Craver's trial, Eshleman claimed the boy not only had "RAD," but was self-injuring because of it.

According to Eshleman, "RAD" children are "aggressive," "destructive," prey on others, are oppositional liars, etc. However, RAD, as defined in the DSM-IV, has no aggressive or violent features associated with it -- and no self-injuring behaviors. RAD children may possibly tend to be risk-takers but that it not the same thing.

So if Nathaniel was self-injurious, which appears unlikely considering the autopsy results, he was either misdiagnosed and not treated appropriately, or he was, as so many adopted children have been, diagnosed with the bogus "RAD" disorder simply because he walked into the office of an Attachment Therapist.

There was another bizarre claim made by a so-called adoption specialist in connection with this case that the press swallowed whole. This nonsense claim is discussed here:

Advocates for Children in Therapy has found links to numerous adopted child abuse and death cases to Attachment Therapy and its parenting methods. Here are cases they know about:

It is not unusual to find government agencies and government-funded agencies recommending Attachment Therapy/Parenting. Since a case could reasonably be made that this unvalidated practice is actual torture, public funding of the practice in the USA should be considered a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ivan Skorobogatov Update: Cravers Aren't Talking; But Lawyer Is

The Cravers aren't talking about Russia's attempt to extradite them for the murder of their Forever Son, Vanya Skorobogatov, but one of their lawyers is.

The York Dispatch reports:

I don't think (Russia) can have any jurisdiction over them," said Suzanne Smith, who represented Michael Craver. "I don't think any court in the United States would honor (such) an extradition warrant."

U.S. citizens are protected from double jeopardy laws, and the Cravers were already legally tried here, Smith said. Also, the Russians don't have jurisdiction in the case, despite the fact they appear to be arguing Nathaniel was a Russian citizen, she said.

"(Russian officials) are just saying, 'We're not happy with the result. We want to do it our way,'" Smith said. "Well, you don't get to do that. I don't know anyone who would recognize Russians' authority in this particular case. They don't really have any."

District Attorney Tom Kearney, agrees, saying that any attempt to retry the Cravers would run into double jeopardy issues

The question of whether one was properly tried ... is in the eyes of the beholder," he said. "We certainly believe they were. We devoted substantial resources into the prosecution, and the jury made the call. ... And the judge seemed to think it was the right call."

I found it strange that no one commented that the crime happened on US soil, and the citizenship of the victim (which could be a matter of debate anyway)  doesn't play in to it--giving the Russian government no jurisdiction to prosecute. American justice, in my opinion, failed dismally in this case, but there's nothing to be done about that now outside of working to keep Dasha away from the Cravers, socially shunning the couple, and perhaps some kind of civil action..

The Cravers are still not on the INTERPOL online database. If they do appear, I suspect it won't be until next week's show trial starts up  in Moscow.  I've got some questions about how that will operate myself and am still digging around. 


Someone on FB has created a Justice for Nathaniel Craver (Ivan Skorobogatov) page. Three are some pictures of him and Dasha I'd not seen before.

Ivan Skorobogatov Update: Russians Say Cravers Placed on INTERPOL Wanted List; Couple Will Be Tried In Absentia Next Week

Russian media reports that the Russian government is ready to charge US citizens Michael and Nanette Craver with murder in the death of their adopted son, Ivan Skorobogatov, (Nathaniel Craver) 7.  Two months ago, the couple, originally charged with homicide (with aborted death penalty specifications), conspiracy and child endangerment, was found guilty by a jury in York County, Pennsylvania, of involuntary murder  Last Friday,  they were sentenced to 19 months time- served  while awaiting trial, and placed on five years probation.  An autopsy  revealed Vanya had80 external injuries, including 20 to his head and suffered from malnutrition.  He died after being taken off life support. Incredibly, a jury bought the Cravers' defense that Vanya died of repeated self-inflicted injuries and mutilations.due to FAS,  See, the Forever Couple  simply neglected to care for him correctly! 

According to an ITAR-TASS story filed on November 21 the Cravers have been (or will be) placed on the INTERPOL Wanted List. As of this writing they are not on the INTERPOL online database, but I'll keep checking.

The Russian Investigative Committee charged in absentia   the Craver spouses with murder accusations of Vanya   Skorobogatov in the US and puts them on the international  wanted list through the Interpol.

“Today the main investigation department of the Russian Investigative Committee accused the spouses Michael John  and Nannette Louise Cravers under Article 105 Part 2 points  v and zh for murder of an underage child, which was in the hopeless position, by a criminal group,” spokesman for the   Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin said. “The   detectives found that the spouses, which adopted a Russian  citizen Vanya Skorobogatov, killed him.”

Vanya before he got his Forever Famil
“The relevant documents were submitted in the Interpol National Central Bureau under the Russian Interior Ministry, on the basis of which the accused were put on the international wanted list in all Interpol member-countries  seeking to
find the place, where they are staying, detain   and extradite them for the investigation in Russia,” he   said.

“The investigation continues,” Markin said.

Even more interesting, the Cravers are scheduled  to be tried  in the Basmanny District Court of Moscow the afternoon of November 28. for Vayna's murder in absentia
Neither the INTERPOL request or the trial in abstenia comes as a surprise  As soon as the Craver verdict came down, Russian officials threatened to "take action."  The day before the Investigation Commission filed charges against the Cravers,  Russian Foreign  Minister Alexander Lukashevish  blasted the verdict and the US justice system:

“The Cravers who tortured to death the
seven-year-old   boy were released after having spent only 18 months under   arrest. The court sentence is amazingly and flagrantly  
irresponsible,” he said.

“The attorney insisted on the capital punishment. He   said that Vanya’s death was the fault of his adoptive parents. They brutalized the child, brought him to   exhaustion and inflicted a heavy head injury on him that   proved to be fatal,” Lukashevish said.

“Much more severe sentences are passed on Russian   citizens who stand trial in the U.S. on the suspicion of  criminal intents. This fact does not create assuredness  that U.S. court hearings of other humanitarian cases will be unbiased. That does not help the development of the bilateral human rights dialog,” he said.

“Hopefully, the entry into force of the bilateral agreement on cooperation in inter-country adoptions, which   is ready for ratification, will drastically change the   position of Russian children adopted by U.S. families and   make such outrageous situations impossible,” Lukashevich   said.

(The Russian Foreign Ministry website,  (from which this quote it taken, isn't downloading, in either its English or Russian version) so I'm using the English-language ITAR-TASS version.) 

Duma members were also outraged.  Foreign Affairs Committee chair Konstantin Kosachev said the verdict was politically biased..
Prvada, in a follow-up report to the November 21,  ITAR-TASS release says that  Russia's Ombudsman for Children's Rights, Pavel Astakhov, has discussed (at what length goes unreported) the case with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Attorney General Eric Holder. Astakhov reportedly tweeted, ( I can't find Astakhov's Twitter account to verify)  "I believe Clinton must take Ivan's case under special control and attain justice."

Pravda also reports that Astakhov told Holder that "prosecutors must appeal the sentence."

Of course, that won't happen, and Astakhov. who holds a doctorate in law from Pitt, knows it.  He is very good at what he does and never says or does anything without a good reason, He knows there is no way the Russians or INTERPOL can  execute a warrant on the Cravers since the murder--and it was murder--occurred on US soil. .The show trial next week in Moscow--we know how it will turn out-- is the only trick the Russians have to show any kind of justice, real or otherwise, for Vanya.  It also makes a point to the US that murder has consequences, even if they may turn out empty.--but not as empty as the farce in York.Ultimately, as all adoption politics, it's just kubuki.  This play is just on the grander scale of the international stage. The good part, though,  in my opinion, is that this play, while dirtying America's adoption's nose in its own shit,  will also make it impossible for the Cravers to ever adopt again (if they would dare try) and gives Vanya's twin sister Dasha, now in care, a good shot at staying out of the Cravers' clutches. Forever.

Go to the righthand sidebar here for more on Vanya.