A Wiscasset woman found guilty of depraved indifference murder in the Dec. 8, 2017, death of 4-year-old Kendall Chick will be sentenced Tuesday in Wiscasset Superior Court.
Prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 65 years to life for Shawna Gatto, 44, who was found guilty in April following a five-day jury-waived bench trial at the Capitol Judicial Center, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber confirmed Monday.
Chick was the granddaughter of Gatto’s fiance, Stephen Hood. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services removed Chick from her mother’s custody and placed her with Gatto and Hood three years before her death.
Gatto pleaded not guilty.
During the weeklong trial, experts from the Maine State Police crime lab testified that Chick’s DNA and what they surmised to be her blood stains had been found throughout the Wiscasset home, and the state’s medical examiner testified that Chick died from blunt force trauma to her head, a “catastrophic” traumatic injury to her abdomen and chronic “child abuse syndrome,” or multiple injuries to many parts of her body over time.
Hood, who testified for the prosecution, told the court that he saw bruises and other injuries on his granddaughter throughout her life. He added that when he questioned Gatto about them, she said the child “would be fine.”
But Gatto’s defense attorneys, Jeremy Pratt and Philip Cohen, said too much remained unknown about Chick’s death to convict Gatto, and then focused on Hood as a potential alternative suspect in the murder.
Gatto did not testify in her own defense.
In his verdict, Superior Court Justice William Stokes described the abuse inflicted by Gatto as “outrageous, revolting, shocking and brutal,” and said “such conduct can only be described as torture.”
Stokes said Gatto’s insistence that Chick injured herself was “inherently incredible” and “utterly unworthy of belief.”
At the time, Assistant Attorney General John Alsop, who with Macomber prosecuted the case, said prosecutors would discuss whether to file charges against Hood.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office declined on Monday to comment on potential charges against Hood.
Gatto’s sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.
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