Couple sentenced for ‘religious’ beating death and torture of children

Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, the Paradise, California couple who were arrested in February 2010 in the beating death of one child and the severe beating of another, were sentenced to prison this morning.

Authorities said the couple used a quarter-inch plumber’s supply line during a “biblical chastisement” that went too far, resulting in medical complications that caused the death Feb. 5 of 7-year-old Lydia Schatz and left her sister, Zariah, 11, hospitalized with serious injuries.

The Paradise Post reports:

Kevin Schatz was sentenced to two life terms for second-degree murder and torture and will have to serve at 22 years. Elizabeth Schatz was sentenced to 13 years, four months for voluntary manslaughter and infliction of unlawful corporal punishment. […]

The prison terms were part of the plea bargain with prosecutors. Before pleading guilty to amended charges on April 8, the Schatzes were charged with first-degree murder and torture and had faced two life terms in prison.

The charges stem from the Feb. 4 and 5, 2010 whippings of adopted daughters Lydia Schatz, 7, and her then 11-year-old sister. A biological son was also injured. The Schatzes were using a method of discipline that involved whipping the children for hours with a 15-inch length of plumber’s supply line.


Lydia died of her injuries. The older girl required hospitalization but recovered.

In February, 2010, the Chico News & Review wrote:

What the police found when they searched the Paradise home … sheds some light on the Schatzes’ private lives, and their adherence to Christian fundamentalist ideals, in particular the writings of one well-known couple.

Police found, on the Schatzes’ bed, a 15-inch section of PVC tube, a quarter-inch thick. They believe it to be the murder weapon, as both Lydia and Zariah had “whip-like” marks that matched the length and width of the pipe. It lay beside a children’s book.

The PVC tube may seem like a strange punishment tool, but for those familiar with the teachings of Christian fundamentalists and authors Michael and Debi Pearl, it is nothing new.

“There was some evidence that indicates they were familiar with the Pearls’ publications,” Ramsey said of the Schatzes. Police interviews with the other children revealed they, too, had been on the receiving end of the “rod.”

On the Pearls’ Web page, nogreaterjoy.org, Michael Pearl writes about “training” children in two sections titled “In Defense of Biblical Chastisement,” parts one and two: “As a rule, do not use your hand. Hands are for loving and helping. If an adult swings his or her hand fast enough to cause pain to the surface of the skin, there is a danger of damaging bones and joints. The most painful nerves are just under the surface of the skin. A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of 1/4 inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument. It will fit in your purse or hang around your neck. You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility keeps the kids in line.”

The Pearls have said in a public statement that they “do not teach “corporal punishment” nor “hitting” children.”

According to the Contra Costa Times,

Michael Harvey, Kevin Schatz’s attorney, said most know it’s inappropriate to shake a baby, but few had heard of the medical condition that could be caused by Schatzes’ disciplinary method.

“This is a tragic case,” Harvey said. “It’s an example of trying to do the right thing in a wrong way.”

Kevin Sears, Elizabeth Schatz’s attorney, said the case was a tragedy and didn’t dispute the death or injury. However, he asserted the probation report wasn’t wholly accurate. In particular, he said the hours of whipping were interrupted with periods of prayer and reflection.

District Attorney Mike Ramsey said the Schatzes have often characterized their actions as inappropriate discipline, which he said showed a lack of insight.
While acknowledging the death and injuries weren’t intentional, he said their actions, including the whippings and other punishments, were over the top.

“This was beating. This was torture. This was inhuman,” he said.

Kevin Schatz is ineligible for good conduct credits due to the murder conviction, meaning he will serve 22 years before being considered for parole.

He was given credit for 310 days served in county jail. Elizabeth Schatz was credited for 387 days of time served and could earn an additional 670 days credit in prison.

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This post was last updated: Jun. 11, 2011