US couple guilty for adopted son’s death

A US couple has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter but acquitted of murder charges in the death of their 7-year-old adopted son from Russia.

Russian officials were particularly interested in the verdict, as a string of similar cases threatened adoptions between countries.

The jury found Michael Craver, 47, an engineer and Air Force veteran, and his wife Nanette, 55, guilty of involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and conspiracy.

Their adopted son, Nathaniel Craver, suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, attachment disorders and injuries after the Pennsylvania couple adopted him from Russia. His parents said they took the boy to a stream of doctors and therapists because of bizarre, self-abusive behaviour. In August 2009, he suffered a head injury and died five days later.

The Cravers insisted their son ran into an indoor stove the night before they found him unconscious.

“[Self-harm] is a hard concept to grasp if you haven’t lived it, like Mike and Nanette did,” defence lawyer Rick Robinson told jurors.

But prosecutors said the skinny, blond boy’s 19kg body told a different tale, one of chronic abuse and neglect.

 Prosecutors believed Nathaniel died from repeated blows to the head but never said which parent allegedly delivered them.

The case drew the attention of Russian authorities. They said at least 17 Russian children died in domestic-violence incidents with their American families. And a Tennessee woman stoked tensions last year when she sent an allegedly violent 7-year-old boy she had adopted back to Moscow alone with a note about his problems.

When international adoptions took off in the late 1980s, there was a feeling the children needed “just a little bit of love,” according to Chuck Johnson, executive director of the Virginia-based National Council for Adoption.

“We very quickly began to realise that some of these children were coming with profound hurts, physically and emotionally.”

The couple, jailed since February last year, were expected to be released on bail ahead of their sentencing.

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