Victim of Attachment Therapy
Killed, age 7, August 25, 2009
Nathaniel Craver and his twin sister Elizabeth, were
adopted from Russia in 2003. Their adoptive parents
are charged with killing Nathaniel and face the
death penalty. [Photo: The Patriot-News]
Note: The following account has been prepared from press reports, personal interviews, trial transcripts, and other public records.
Nathaniel Michael Craver, 7, and his twin sister Elizabeth (Dasha), were adopted from Russia in 2003 by Michael and Nanette Craver. Nathaniel died August 25, 2009, from complications from traumatic brain injury coupled with a "severe failure to thrive.” The emaciated child had some 80 wounds to his body, 20 of which were to his head.
Nathaniel was being home-schooled by the Cravers. He and his sister were adopted through Lutheran Social Services of the South in Austin, Texas, from Dom Rebyenka #9, Troitsk, Chelyabinsk, Russia. The case attracted much international interest, especially in Russia (see news reports below).
The Cravers were successful in getting murder charges lessened so that they would not risk of the death penalty. They told the court that Nathaniel was responsible for his own death; that he was self-injurious because he had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and “Reactive Attachment Disorder.” The remaining charges were of felony homicide, conspiracy, and child endangerment. The parents attributed the boy’s death to him hitting his head on a stove.
During their trial, beginning September 6, 2011, forensic pathologist Dr. Wayne Ross, testified that there was severe trauma and swelling of the head, but he saw no sign of FAS on examination of Nathaniel’s brain. A foster parent who cared for Nathaniel and Elizabeth for two weeks testified that she saw no self-injurious behaviors. Ross also told the jury that the boy suffered many injuries that could not have been self-inflicted. He also noted that there were indications that the boy had been bound.
Psychologist and Attachment Therapist Ronald S. Federici commented to the press regarding the Craver case that institutionalized orphans can be severely self-injurious. He claims to have been familiar with a case where such a child chewed off his hand. (See commentary regarding this unusual claim on the Child Myths blog.)
Attachment Therapist Lark Eshleman, a certified school psychologist, showed the court videos of the Cravers interacting with Nathaniel. Eshleman testified that both Nathaniel and his sister had “attachment disorders” and that these conditions were exacerbated when the children were temporarily placed in foster care for two weeks while prior charges of abuse at the hands of the Cravers were being investigated. Eshleman founded the now-defunct Pennsylvania therapy center called Institute for Children and Families where the Craver children were treated. She also served on the board of ATTACh (2002-2011), the national trade organization for Attachment Therapists and proponents. She claims to have a doctorate in clinical psychology from the infamous Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her writings indicate that she uses Attachment Therapy’s unrecognized definition of “Attachment Disorder” which attributes to it numerous negative intentions and destructive behaviors.
After the Cravers’ conviction on child endangerment, the judge sentenced them only to time served (18 months), and to probation for three and one-half years. They were also forbidden any contact with Elizabeth, now in the custody of an aunt. Russian authorities were outraged by the verdict and the leniency of the sentencing. The Russian Investigative Committee claims it has provided documents to Interpol requesting the Cravers be put on the international wanted list. Press indicate that steps have been taken to gain custody of the Cravers through talks between Russia's Ombudsman for Children's Rights, Pavel Astakhov, and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. There are reports that the Cravers will be tried in absentia in a Moscow court on November 28, 2011. While the Russians know that legal recourse is highly unlikely, they are making the point as loudly as they can that there was no justice for this Russian adoptee who was brutally murdered.
Nanette and Michael Craver
[Photo: The Patriot News]
“Manslaughter of foster kid lands US couple on Russia’s wanted list,” RT News, 21 Nov 2011:
“Adopted 7-yo beat, bound, starved,” CBS News:
“Russia to ban US adoption,” RT News, 5 Mar 2010:
“Inside America's ‘stork market’” RT News, 16 Mar 2010:
“Another adopted Russian child murdered,” RT News, 3 Mar 2010.
- “Ivan Skorobogatov: Russians say Cravers now on INTERPOL wanted list; Couple will be tried for murder on absentia next week,” The Daily Bastardette, 23 Nov 2011.
- “US justice lets adoptive parents kill Russian children,” Pravda, 22 Nov 2011.
- “Russia charges in absentia Cravers with adopted son murder,” Itar-Tass News Agency, 21 Nov 2011.
- “US couple put on wanted list for Russian boy's death,” MSNBC-India, 22 Nov 2011.
- “Russia Attacks Sentence of Adoptee’s Parents,” by David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times, 19 Nov 2011.
- “Jury sees videos of adopted Pa. boy and parents,” The Mercury, 14 Sep 2011.
- “Forensic pathologist: Nathaniel Craver's injuries could not be self-inflicted,” by Rick Lee, York Daily Record, 7 Sep 2011.
- “Jury hears details of adopted Russian boy's serious injuries,” by Rick Lee, York Daily Record, 6 Sep 2011.
- “York County couple killed their son, prosecutor tells jury,” by Jeff Frantz, The Patriot-News, 6 Sep 2011.
- “Russian child killed in US: warnings ignored,” by Bill Keisling, Pravda, 3 Nov 2010.
- “Chewing off the hand: demonizing Nathaniel Craver,” by Jean Mercer, Child Myths blog, 22 Oct 2010.
- “Parents of adopted boy who died claim he caused his own death by repeatedly hurting himself,” by Lara Brenckle, The Patriot-News, 20 Oct 2010.
- “Couple accused in neglect, death of child seek dismissal of charges,” by Ivan Skorobogatov, York Daily Record, 9 Oct 2010.
- “Ivan Skorobogtov/Nathaniel Craver update,” Nobody is Forgotten, 5 Jul 2010.
- “DA wants death penalty for parents in Russian adoption case,” by Rick Lee, Daily Record, 24 May 2010.
- “Cravers to face trial in death of adopted son,” by Kathy Stevens, The York Dispatch, 29 Apr 2010.
- “Experts: boy didn't cause his death,” by Dan Gleiter, The Patriot-News, 30 Apr 2010.
- “York County couple bound for trial for death of adopted Russian son,” Craig Layne, Pennsylvania Fox News, 29 Apr 2010.
- “International adoptions can bring on unique challenges,” by Lara Brenckle, The Patriot-News, 3 Apr 2010.
- “US foster parents kill another Russian child,” Pravda, 3 Apr 2010.
- “Nathaniel Michael Craver - (Ivan Skorobogatov),” Pound Puppy Legacy.