Nathaniel Michael Craver

 - August 25, 2009

Another family has managed to make adoptions from Russia by American's look bad. Michael J. Craver, who was 45 years old at the time and Nanette L. Craver, who was 54 years old at the time, abused their son, Nathaniel, to death,  Nathaniel had been born with the name Vanya Skorobogatov. The couple adopted Nathaniel and his twin sister from Russia and just two years before his death, the twins had been removed from their home by the York County Children And Youth Services, but were returned a short time later and then the parents removed the children from public school.

Police were told that Nathaniel had fallen and hit his head on the wood stove on August 19 and that on the morning of August 20 Michael had found him in bed, soaked in urine and unresponsive. Nathaniel had died from complications brought on by traumatic brain injury. Nathaniel was taken to the E.R. at Holy Spirit Hospital and it was found that his injuries were life threatening so he was taken to Hershey Medical Center where he was placed on life support. Nathaniel died after life support was removed several days later.

Doctors counted more than 80 bruises all in different stages of healing with 20 of those bruises being on his head. Internal injuries were also found including a fractured forehead and blood beneath Nathaniel's scalp with traumatic hemorrhages and swelling to his brain and brain stem as well as softening of his brain. Forensic Pathologist, Wayne K. Ross said that Nathaniel was suffering from a failure to thrive, which is brought on by malnutrition. It took six months for the autopsy to be finished, but upon its completion, Michael and Nanette were arrested and charged with homicide and endangering the welfare of a child and conspiracy to commit both homicide and child endangerment, they were held without bail.

Sandy Craver, Nathaniel's grandmother, said that she had seen him around Memorial day and that both of his eyes were completely swollen shut and he just had two slits open. When Sandy questioned her son he said:

"You know he doesn't leave his eyes alone"

Michael was blaming the swollen eyes on the fact that he claimed Nathaniel was always rubbing and scratching at his eyes. Sandy and Nathaniels' grandfather, Robert Craver said that they had seen him run in to things from time to time, but they didn't believe any of his injuries could come from that:

"When Nathaniel would so something wrong that was minor, Nathaniel would get very
scared that he was going to get in trouble and he would ever shake"

Robert and Sandy said they had never been witness to Nathaniel hurting himself and every time they asked about an injury they were told that he had fallen down. Sandy Atkins, Michael's Aunt had also seen the swollen eyes as well as a swollen face and said that while she was visiting, Nathaniel clung to her and didn't want to let go of her and when she asked about a scar on his head she was told that Nathaniel had fallen and Nanette had fixed it. Records showed that Nathaniel had not visited any doctors for any of his injuries in 2009.

Michael and Nanette told Police that Nathaniel would often injure himself and that the week before he died, he had thrown himself down the stairs. The couple said that Nathaniel was in therapy because they felt he had psychological issues and that when they tried to get further help for those issues they were unable to get him any help.  Michael said that they children had not been in school for two years and prior to that had been removed from their home and during that time they had received counseling as well as medication for whatever issues they had, claiming it had helped the sister but not Nathaniel, who continued to hurt himself. Michael added that two weeks before he died, they had taken Nathaniel off of his medications and he told Police:

"We had feared this day would come"

Of course the Police didn't believe that Nathaniel had hurt himself. Nathaniel's sister was removed from the home.

Forensic Pathologist Dr. Wayne K. Ross talked in court about Nathaniel's injuries to the head and brain:

"I don't mean just a little bit of swelling. I mean the entire skill and head looked to me like a
watermelon or an alien. The bottom line is, it was soft as anything. When you look at the pictures
of the brain we took at autopsy, it was purple and dead, it was flat and mushy. It was horrible"

When asked if Nathaniel could possibly have done this to himself, Dr. Ross said:

"The abuse I see is due to a direct action of another, not self abuse"

Dr. Ross found evidence that Nathaniel's muscles had been torn near his shoulder and hip joins as well as marks on his feet and wrists to show that he had been tied up. Bruising was apparent on his torso and back which showed he had been hit with something over the past few weeks and an untreated rib as well as what he referred to as "lakes of blood" under his skull. Dr. Ross said that Nathaniel had to have been hit many times in order to be in the condition he was in and to be as malnourished as he was, he had to have been starved. The jury was shown diagrams of the injuries to Nathaniel's body. Michael took off his glasses during this testimony, I guess he didn't want to see what he had done to this innocent little Angel.

Lisa Blake from the Catholic Charities met with the Craver's as a Parent Educator. Children And Youth Services had recommended the Craver's attend meeting with her in 2007. Lisa said that Michael was angry and red faced at the meetings and that last time she met with them after their case with CYS was closed, she felt unsafe with how intense he had become.

In court, Prosecutor Tim Barker said in his closing argument:

"Common sense tells you he didn't do it himself. Common sense tells you they did it to him.
And on August 19, 2009, they did it to him again, repeated blows. They murdered their
"little buddy"

Tim Barker brought up the fact that the Craver's had not contacted anyone about Nathaniel supposedly hurting himself until the allegations of child abuse had been brought up. Dr Annie Steinberg had testified that children with behavioral disorders such as Reactive Attachment Disorder should be in nurturing homes adding that she had never heard of a child who suffered from RAD dying by injuries they had inflicted on their self. Tim said that Nathaniel's body had told the truth about how he died, though the Craver's had invented a story to explain it.:

"This case existed in the shadows. The Cravers kept it in the shadows. Nathaniel died a shadowy death"

In November of 2011 a jury acquitted Michael and Nanette of first and third degree murder. What kind of a jury can listen to the evidence given by Dr. Ross and NOT know that this was not just abuse, it was murder. Nanette was crying and Michael watched as his wife cried. The couple was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and Judge S. Kennedy was asked to set a bail by Suzanne Smith, Michael's Lawyer and the other four defense lawyers and bail was set at $50,000. each.

Outside of the courtroom, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tim barker had this to say:

"We are very appreciative of the jury verdict of involuntary manslaughter and endangering
through a course of conduct because it means forever Michael and Nanette Craver will be
called the killers of their son Nathaniel and we have vindicated Nathaniel's memory and
shown he didn't abuse himself to death"
Tim Barker

"The jury put some time into it. The lawyers concerns are, this was a two week trial and they
made the decision in two hours"

Suzanne Smith

"I'm not going to say they, the jury, didn't do their job. I just disagree. From my perspective,
I didn't feel the commonwealth had met their burden. I'm not condemning the jury, that's
our system"
Rick Robinson

The Defense lawyers tried to describe how Michael and Nanette felt about the verdict and said they would ask for time served as the sentences the Craver's would get:

"It's hard to be relieved when you are convicted of any crime"
Clasina Mahoney

A conviction of involuntary manslaughter convictions has a maximum penalty of 3 1/2 to seven years and the standard for sentencing is between nine and 16 months. Tim Barker said it was too early for comments about sentencing.

Suzanne smith said in her closing arguments:

"None of us are perfect parents. And children don't come with instruction booklets"

You don't have to be a perfect parent or have a book to tell you NOT to abuse and kill children. Suzanne used the fact that Nathaniel had been adopted as a reason that the Craver's had little information about their children and said that the children had been taken to the doctor for wellness checks and common illnesses:

"If you are abusing your children, why are you taking them to the doctor for something minor"

Rick Robinson said that the accusations against the Craver's abusing and neglecting Nathaniel were not true and if they didn't want or love their children they could have left them in foster care:

"Not one witness said they saw Nanette Craver or Michael Craver strike Nathaniel. To be clear,
we are not blaming Nathaniel when I say it was his fault. He didn't have a choice about how he
came into this world"

Sorry Rick, you OBVIOUSLY know very little about child abuse. Children die EVERY DAY at the hands of people who never hit them when witnesses are around and to be clear, you ARE blaming Nathaniel, saying he inflicted life threatening injuries on himself. Attitudes such as yours are the reason when children die at the hands of evil people, the evil people get away with it.

In September of 2009, Michael and Nanette Carver received sentences of 16 months to four years from Judge John S. Kennedy. The couple would not serve one more day though, they had already been in jail for a whopping 19 months and that apparently was enough in the eyes of some people. Prosecutors asked the judge not to allow the Craver's to have any contact at all with their daughter, who was living with her Aunt, until she turned 18 years old. The judge said he would leave that decision to child welfare officials. Apparently Judge Kennedy forgot that the child welfare officials are the ones who found it okay to return two children to an abusive home that left one child dead.

Understandably, the Government in Russia was upset about this:

"The Craver's, who tortured the 7 year old to death, were released after staying a mere
year and a half under arrest. The court verdict is amazingly and flagrantly irresponsible.
They brutalized the child, brought him to exhaustion and inflicted a heavy head injury
on him that proved to be fatal"

Alexander Lukashevich - Foreign Ministry Spokesman

Officials in Russia were going to do their own investigation and possibly seek an arrest warrant of their own.

Michael and Nanette both filed appeals asking the Supreme Court to wipe their records clean and clear their names. In 2013, Nanette's appeal was rejected by the Supreme court and in 2014, Michael's claim was also rejected.

I am unable to find any information about Russia filing charges. A week after Nathaniel died a child was put on a plane to Russia, he had been adopted and then sent back alone. Russia suspended all adoptions to America from Russia as a result of that. Who can blame them? I know there are so many families out there who would love to adopt children from Russia, but how can we be sure that the children won't become a statistic? It's just so sad!

This page was created on June 23, 2014
Death occurred in the state of Pennsylvania

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