A trial for a Paradise, California couple facing murder charges for beating one adopted daughter to death and injuring another ended before it began after the pair entered unexpected guilty pleas Friday.
Elizabeth and Kevin Schatz were expected to go to trial Monday in Butte County Superior Court for the Feb. 4 and 5, 2010, beating of adopted daughters Lydia Schatz, 7, and her then 11-year-old sister. Lydia died of her injuries; the older girl required hospitalization but recovered.
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The Schatzes’ defense team and Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey had spent Friday with Judge Kristen Lucena discussing final motions before starting jury selection. As Ramsey prepared to leave the courtroom, defense attorneys Michael Harvey and Kevin Sears asked him to stay about a possible plea bargain.
Court was called back into session and Kevin Schatz pled guilty to one count each of second-degree murder, torture, and misdemeanor cruelty to a child. He will serve at least 22 years of a 22-to-life prison sentence.
Elizabeth Schatz pled guilty to single counts of voluntary manslaughter, inflection of unlawful corporal punishment on a child, and misdemeanor cruelty to a child. She will be sentenced to the maximum 13 years, four months in prison. Both also face a six-month county jail sentence, and $20,000 fines each.
If the pair had been convicted on the original charges of first-degree murder and torture, they would’ve each faced maximum sentences of two life terms in prison. […]
Outside of the courtroom, Sears said his client, Elizabeth Schatz, regretted what happened. “She feels very remorseful over what happened to her children and she was very anxious to accept responsibility,” Sears said. […]
Harvey said his client took the bargain because it will spare his wife from serving a longer sentence. It also eliminated the need for his children to testify in court – most of the Schatzes’ six biological children and the older adopted daughter were listed as possible trial witnesses. “He felt that was his duty as a father to his family,” Harvey said.
While there has been discussion about the Schatzes’ whippings being based on “biblical chastisements” drawn from the teachings of a fundamentalist religious organization known as No Greater Joy Ministry, Ramsey said he hadn’t planned to focus on the teachings in his prosecution. He said he had been prepared to address it if it was raised by the defense.