Homeschool family charged with murder, torture, child abuse

Update: It looks like the DA has made the connection between the Schatz family’s method of discipline and a certain Christian ministry.

He said investigators are researching a possible connection to an Internet Web site set up by “fundamentalist Christian people” that recommends use of the same whip-like implement “as an appropriate tool for biblical chastisement … to train a child from infancy to make them a happier child and more obedient to God because they are obedient to the will of their parents,” said Ramsey.  DA links fundamentalist religious ‘training’ to Paradise girl’s death

I can only guess he’s talking about No Greater Joy by Michael and Debi Pearl, which I alluded to below.  At this time, I will only say I very much appreciate the DAs sensitivity in the matter.

He said it’s not clear at this point whether the Schatzes ever visited the Internet Web site in question, which Ramsey stressed “does not endorse hurting or beating a child,” nor is connected to any specific church.  From the research he has done, the district attorney pointed out that “even within the fundamentalist Christian community” parental use of corporal punishment “is subject to a great deal of debate.”  Ibid.

And back to the original entry.

An alleged abuse case leaves one adoptive child dead, another abused and seven other children in foster care.

The younger victim was not breathing at the time of discovery but was later revived with life support at Feather River Hospital. However, she died en route after being transferred to Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento.

The 11-year-old is hospitalized at Sutter.

It isn’t the family’s first time in the news, either.  While adopting three of their children from Liberia, they were interviewed by a local television station and put up a time line of their adoption.

From the reports, they were a quiet family.  A Christian, secluded, invite-half-the -neighborhood-to-dinner, and “overall odd” sort of family.  Who homeschooled.

Paradise police Sgt. Steve Rowe confirmed Lydia was allegedly beaten for mispronouncing a word.  Paradise Post

Beaten until she went into cardiac arrest?  The instrument used for this “discipline” bears an eerie resemblance to another case, one of the first really controversial topics I ever blogged about.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said the girls were allegedly beaten with a 15-inch-long piece of flexible plastic tubing commonly found in toilet tanks.

. . .

Ramsey said the remaining children have indicated that they sustained similar discipline with similar instruments. Ibid.

These stories always make me sick to my stomach.  Everyone has an interest in the interpretation of the story.  Homeschoolers want the abuse separated from education.  Christians want the religion separated from the parenting.  Those concerned about the whole child protective “industry” focus on the adopted children.  Those who have always thought homeschoolers a little odd take the chance to present homeschooling as a hiding place for abuse.  Pound Pup Legacy even goes through the effort of summarizing information on children who have died in custody or adoptive homes, noting whether the family was homeschooling and of a fundamentalist faith.  Because those are, of course, major risk factors for abuse.  They of course make no mention of education or religion where the families neither homeschool nor belong to a “fundamentalist faith.”  But in the middle of it all, a child is dead, and another appears to be in critical condition at an area hospital.

And likely, there isn’t much anyone could have done to prevent it.  I think maybe that is why we are so quick to judge, to think “how could this have happened?” to think “something should have been done.”  And from there, it isn’t far to “something must be done to prevent this in future.”  And we focus on all the superfluous, irrelevant, subjective details.

But “odd” doesn’t warrant strip searching children for evidence of bruising; “overly modest” isn’t something you call CPS about; “protective from the outside world” hardly constitutes probable cause in any sort of an investigation.  And the family was friendly and involved in the community enough to be inviting neighbors for dinner, pick fruit from their neighbors’ trees and clean their yards.  They were not completely locked away.

Just weird.

And well-behaved.

Not anything that would raise flags for even a mandated reporter.  After all, teachers somehow missed the fact a student was locked in a closet for over a year, and allowed out only to go to school.

I suppose that is why the public service announcements out here encourage you to call even if you only suspect something is amiss, with the reassurance that you can remain completely anonymous.  We don’t stop too much to think what that means for us as a society, turning neighbors into anonymous tipsters.  We just hope that CPS can sort it out, and that some child somewhere might be saved.

But the one thing that stood out to me in this story was that there was no prior history of child abuse, no list of previous CPS contacts.  Believe it or not, that seems to be the norm in child death cases, proving that even those most trained to work with abuse can still miss the signs.  Or perhaps even proving that there aren’t always signs to notice.

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17 Comments on "Homeschool family charged with murder, torture, child abuse"

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I found a quote while working on my notebook for Carry On, Mr. Bowditch this morning. It reminded me of these horrifying events. It’s in regards to the press, but I think it applies: If we argue against any branch of liberty, just because sometimes people abuse that liberty, then we argue against liberty itself. What is the alternative? As gut-wrenching as it is, we cannot protect every child. And where do we draw the line? Extreme abuse and neglect are obvious, but is it fair to say one group, for instance homeschoolers, are more prone to harming children? This… Read more »

A very sad story, and yes… we all read into what we want to read into it.

An interesting note–the police are called out at 1 am?

Abuse is terrible. There always going to be some abuse somewhere but, we do try to protect our kids. When I was a child you very rarely heard of women abusing kids but now. we have to actively watch for that also. I have no desire to send my grandkids back to public school to be bullied and Possibly abused by a teacher. No way!! Homeschoolers didnt corrupt the public school system. But we are expected to send our out into it and trust the “school” to protect them. If we dont abuse them why should we allow others to.… Read more »

That’s OK, Belinda. Soapboxes are welcome in my comment box, so long as they are at least moderately relevant. 🙂

The anonymous reporter system seems deeply flawed. I understand the intent behind it, and think it is a good intent. But without consequences for those who use it as a means of harassment, it is very problematic.

They are friends of ours. Elizabeth and the girls helped celebrate the birth of our daughter. Everyone keeps venting about no one “seeing the signs” and intervening. Since my husband and I heard about this horrible, painful thing, we have been replaying every interaction we had with them. Trying to see what we, and others had missed. The children were always well behaved, happy and very loved. That’s what I am struggling with, trying to fuse together these two compleatly different realities. Everyday I see Lydias beautiful face, and my heart breaks. We’ve been in constant prayer for her sister… Read more »

Thank you for sharing, Christina. I’m so sorry for your loss. And you can’t always see the signs. Sometimes abuse can be well-hidden.

It breaks my heart to have a family torn apart like that. I pray for the other children who have seen what children shouldn’t have to see, and that they find peace in their new homes.


So angry. So angry that child abuse in the church is tolerated, excused, overlooked, kept behind closed doors. . . So angry that teachers and teachings aren’t called out more publicly. May God have mercy on us all.


Me, too, TulipGirl. It is sad and sickening. . . ritualized, institutionalized abuse.

Friends, my daughters are friends with the oldest daughter in that family….Being closer to this situation than the rest of you are I can tell you that this has devastated our community. I sit here in tears as I type this. The little girl vomited in her sleep and died from asphyxiation. They are claiming that the potassium level in her body rose that caused the vomiting…this happens when a body has been injured to this degree. A very dear friend of mine knows the lady who worked in the ER that night…she said there was no doubt in their… Read more »
This only goes to prove that homeschooling families must be subjected to regular investigation. The sick torture manual the Pearls have written, which reads ten thousand times worse than the sickest BDSM porn you’ll find anywhere, has been on the market for over fifteen years. Barnes and Noble refuses to sell it. This recent child murder is not the first such murder perpetrated by following the Pearls’ torture manual. That this stuff has been out there for this much time, that it has made a steady stream of income for those two evil, sadistic, sick, twisted, perverted demons, means there… Read more »
Because one couple is selling a book that we find abhorrent does not make us all “sick, sick, sick.” If we were all “sick, sick, sick,” we would all be defending them, not criticizing them. When you stop the abuse that goes on IN the schools, we can talk. When you stop the abuse that goes on IN state monitored group homes and foster homes where there is an entire system of monitoring, then we can talk. When you stop the abuse that goes on IN homes of public schooled children every day that isn’t recognized, or is reported and… Read more »

You nutso religious homeschoolers all cover for each other — that’s why people say they never saw anything — they’re probably doing the same thing to their kids.

You can’t be trusted. You all need to be monitored and investigated regularly.

You are evil, hateful people.

No — you people created this atmosphere with your hysteria about schools and the outside world — you created this closed, fear-filled, paranoid world in which people like the Pearls seem like good Christians and their methods Biblical. You bear some blame — you are part and parcel of how this was allowed to happen. Those sick, sadistic, Satan-spawned child abusers have been raking in money from the sale of their books — and demonstration DVDs!!!! — for over fifteen years and it had to take the horrific, torturous, sadistic death of a little girl and the systematic near-fatal torture… Read more »
The problem is that while most home-schoolers may be making decisions based on what they believe will be best for their children, home-schooling undeniably provides cover for people looking to avoid scrutiny over some of their abusive child-rearing choices. It is popular among people in the white power and militia movements for exactly this reason (and of course to avoid the children being in not-entirely-white surroundings). And the real stickler is that a child who attends public or private school has more resources available to them to get help than a child who is taught at home. That is an… Read more »