A 44-year-old Wiscasset, Maine woman has been sentenced to 50 years in prison in the fatal beating a 4-year-old girl in her care.
Shawna Gatto was sentenced Tuesday morning. Her attorney had argued she is not a "monster" deserving a life sentence.
"This did not have to happen to her," said Superior Court Justice William Stokes as he explained the reasoning behind the sentence length.
He said he believed Gatto initially wanted to care for Kendall Chick, but for some unknown reason, she began to abuse the young girl and did not ask for help caring for her and eventually killed her.
"That's what's so perplexing," he said. "She does not start out with the goal of harming this child."
The case has sparked child welfare reforms.
Witnesses testified Chick's body was covered with bruises and one of her eyes was swollen shut when responders discovered her lifeless body. An autopsy showed Chick had over a dozen injuries consistent with severe abuse.
A state caseworker visited the home once over the three years the girl lived with her grandfather and Gatto, his fiancee.
Gatto's sentence is two decades more than the 30 years her attorneys wanted.
"I have no comment other than to say we'll be appealing both the verdict and the sentence at this time," said defense attorney Jeremy Pratt.
Prosecutors did not get the life sentence they sought either, but said they were pleased with the outcome. They also called the case traumatizing, for themselves and investigators.
"Some of the first responders that were there that night are still in counseling as a result of what they saw," said Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber.
Gatto's attorneys have 21 days to file their appeal.