WISCASSET — A Wiscasset woman pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge that she caused the Dec. 8 death of Kendall Chick, a 4-year-old girl in her care.

Shawna Gatto, 43, appeared in Lincoln County Superior Court before Justice William Stokes to formally face a charge of depraved indifference murder. That rare classification means that whether or not she intended to cause a death, she acted with depraved indifference to the value of human life.

Meanwhile, a transcript of the 911 call that brought emergency responders to the scene of the girl’s death was made public Friday.

Chick died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen, the state medical examiner’s office ruled after an autopsy, but showed signs of previous trauma as well.

Stokes set bail at $250,000 cash pending a hearing scheduled for next week. If she is able to post bail, the judge said she would be kept under house arrest.

Gatto has been held at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset since her Dec. 14 arrest. She spoke only briefly Friday when Stokes asked her how she wished to plead.

“Not guilty,” she replied.

Gatto lived on Cricket’s Lane with her fiancé, Stephen Hood, and had been Chick’s primary caretaker. The girl was Hood’s biological granddaughter but her parents’ whereabouts are not known.

Police have said that Chick was formally placed with Hood and Gatto by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in January 2017 but had been living there longer than that. DHHS has not commented on the case, citing privacy laws.

911 TRANSCRIPT

Gatto told investigators that she doesn’t know how the girl was injured but the medical examiner found evidence of other assaults. Also, the autopsy included a microscopic examination of the girl’s thymus gland and found that it showed signs of “chronic physiological stress.” The thymus gland controls the body’s immune system, which means prolonged stress would have left her less able to fight off sickness or infections.

Also Friday, Lincoln County administrators, in response to a Freedom of Access Act request, released a transcript of the 911 call that Hood made about 4:30 p.m. the day Chick died.

The heavily redacted transcript opens with Hood saying: “I have an emergency. My granddaughter is unresponsive.”

Throughout the conversation between Hood and the dispatcher, Gatto can be heard in the background, sometimes crying.

Shortly after Hood tells the emergency personnel his address and Chick’s age, he says, “We’re losing her.”

In the 911 transcript, a dispatcher instructs Hood to lay Chick flat on her back.

There is a back-and-forth between Hood and Gatto that is largely redacted. At one point, Hood says to her, “What are you doing?”

“Sir? Arguing with her is not going to help. Listen to me,” the dispatcher says to Hood. “What is she saying?”

The dispatcher then instructs Hood to put the call on speaker. After that, the transcript is even more heavily redacted, although it appears as though Hood and Gatto are being instructed on how to perform CPR.

Later in the call, Gatto can be heard saying, “She had fallen a while ago. … Like, two days ago.”

At that point, an ambulance arrived and the call ended.

A ‘TIMEOUT’

An arrest affidavit filed in December indicated that Gatto told police she put Chick in the bathtub as a “timeout” for making a mess in her pants. When she checked on her 10 minutes later, she said, the girl was not responding.

Chick was taken from the home by ambulance but was pronounced dead at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, a little more than an hour after the 911 call.

In addition to Chick, there were two other small children in the home at the time. They have been identified as Gatto’s grandchildren.

Gatto has no criminal history in Maine, other than a shoplifting charge from 2010.

Hood appeared in court Friday but declined to speak with a reporter.

He sat in the back of the courtroom with his head down and waved solemnly at Gatto when she was brought in.

Philip Cohen, Gatto’s attorney, said this week that he did not know the whereabouts of Chick’s parents but said at least one of them was suffering from drug addiction and that may have been why DHHS placed the girl with Hood and Gatto.

The family did not appear to be well-known in the town of Wiscasset.

Erica Sherman, a mother of two who organized a vigil for Chick the week after she died, said she didn’t know the girl but felt compelled to honor her, anyway. Most of those who attended, she said, also didn’t know the family but were saddened by the girl’s death.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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