December 16, 2018
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Woman accused of killing 4-year-old waives jury trial

Sam Luvisi | The Lincoln County
Sam Luvisi | The Lincoln County
Shawna L. Gatto appears in court with her attorney, Philip S. Cohen, Friday, Jan. 12. Gatto pleaded not guilty to depraved indifference murder.

A Wiscasset woman accused of murdering her fiance’s 4-year-old granddaughter has waived her right to a jury trial.

Shawna Gatto, 43, appeared in court Thursday for a hearing on a motion filed by her attorney to suppress statements Gatto allegedly made to investigators following the death of Kendall Chick. Justice William Stokes heard statements from two investigators at the hearing but will not have his decision on the motion until next month.

Gatto is charged with depraved indifference murder in the death of Chick, which occurred at her grandfather’s home in Wiscasset on Dec. 8, 2017. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services placed Chick in the custody of her grandfather, Stephen Hood, and Gatto in January 2017.

Gatto told investigators she was the only person alone with Chick the day of her death, according to the detective’s report. Police found evidence of “trauma and subsequent cleanup” of blood in multiple rooms in the house, the report said. Chick died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen.

At the start of the hearing Thursday, Stokes accepted Gatto’s waiver of her right to a jury trial, which means she will have a trial by judge. Stokes, Gatto’s defense team and prosecutors discussed a tentative trial date for the last week of January.

Attorney Jeremy Pratt, who is representing Gatto with attorney Philip Cohen, filed a motion asking the court to suppress all statements Gatto made to investigators following Chick’s death and before her arrest. Pratt argues Gatto was not read her Miranda rights and that the statements were made after she requested an attorney.

At Thursday’s hearing, the state — represented by assistant attorneys general John Alsop and Robert “Bud” Ellis — called Lincoln County Sheriff detective Jared Mitkus and Maine State Police detective Joshua Birmingham to the stand. Both investigators spoke with Gatto on Dec. 8, 2017, the night of Chick’s death. Birmingham also interviewed Gatto on Dec. 10. Gatto was not in custody during any of the interactions, according to the detectives.

During the Mitkus’ interaction with Gatto at her home and at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, he said he told Gatto she was not under arrest. He had given Gatto a ride from her house to the sheriff’s office so an interview could be conducted by Maine State Police. During this time, Mitkus said Gatto was not restrained and was not told that she couldn’t leave.

Mitkus said he was unaware that while Gatto was waiting with family in the sheriff’s office conference room — which was being video recorded — she said “they won’t let me leave,” according to Pratt.

When Birmingham arrived to interview Gatto at the sheriff’s office, he said he told her she was not in custody and that she could leave at any time. He said he did not read Gatto her Miranda rights during that interview.

When Birmingham interviewed Gatto for a second time on Dec. 10, he said he read Gatto her Miranda rights as a “formality” since she was not in custody at the time. Birmingham said when he challenged Gatto on the schedule of events on the day Chick died, Gatto invoked her right to an attorney.

Stokes will review audio and video recordings of Gatto’s interaction and interviews with the two investigators on Dec. 8, 2017, and Dec. 10, 2018, before he makes his decision on the motion.

Stokes said he will also be reviewing DHHS records pertaining to Chick and decide whether or not to release them to the attorneys.

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