A judge has delivered a guilty verdict against a Wiscasset woman in a 4-year-old girl's death that led to scrutiny of Maine's child welfare system.
Justice William Stokes on Tuesday announced that 44-year-old Shawna Gatto is guilty of depraved indifference murder in the fatal beating of Kendall Chick.
"Miss Gatto's assertion that Kendall’s injuries were self-inflicted or the result of a series of accidents or both is inherently incredible," said Stokes.
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Gatto asked for the emotionally charged testimony to be heard by the judge, not a jury.
"If you have a child or you're responsible for caring for a child you do not hit that child, you do not kill that child," said Assistant Attorney General, Donald Macomber. "If you kill that child, you're going to spend the rest of your life, a good portion of the rest of your life behind bars."
Witnesses testified the youngster's body was covered with bruises and one of her eyes was swollen shut when responders discovered her lifeless body in December 2017.
"Kendall's head was literally smashed into the wall of her bedroom with such force the drywall was broken," said Stokes. "Such conduct can only be described as torture."
Chick was placed in the care of Gatto and her fiance, who was Chick's grandfather, by Maine's child welfare agency. Changes were adopted by the agency after the high-profile deaths of Chick and a 10-year-old girl in Stockton Springs.
Phillip Cohen, Gatto's attorney, said they plan to look at their options.
"Obviously we're disappointed but we have to respect the court's decision and now we have to move on and look at all our appeal options," said Cohen.