A Wiscasset woman accused of killing a 4-year-old girl who was in her care had her bail reduced by a judge Thursday, but her attorneys said the reduced amount is still more than she can raise.

Justice William Stokes lowered bail from $250,000 cash to $150,000 cash for 43-year-old Shawna Gatto during a hearing in Knox County Unified Court.

The defense had asked for the court to reduce the bail to $100,000 surety, which could have been met by putting up property. The defense also said Gatto could wear an ankle monitoring bracelet while on home confinement pending a trial.

Gatto was indicted the week of Jan. 5 in Lincoln County on one count of depraved indifference murder.

Most murder charges in Maine are classified under the more familiar definition of intentional or knowing murder, but both carry the same penalty – 25 years to life in prison.

And that possible sentence was a key reason cited by Stokes as a reason for setting a significant bail.


“What is the most difficult to deal with (in setting bail) is the enormity of the allegations,” Stokes said.

The evidence so far shows she was the only caretaker present when Kendall Chick suffered the fatal injuries, Sokes said. And, he said, because of the substantial evidence and the potential for such a significant incarceration, he could not agree to surety bail.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop said the fact alone that she faces a potential life-changing, extensive sentence called for bail to remain substantial. He said the state has a strong case against Gatto.

Defense attorney Philip Cohen of Waldoboro, who represents Gatto alongside attorney Jeremy Pratt of Camden, said Gatto has strong ties to the community and was not a flight risk. She has lived in Maine for 30 years, and her two sons, her mother, and an aunt and uncle all live in Maine, he said.

Gatto has a minimal criminal record — a single conviction for shoplifting five years ago, Cohen said.

He said the state placed the child in the home she shares with her partner after a thorough home review. Two other children who were in her care have been examined after Chick’s death and they were found to have been fine, Cohen said.


Gatto has been held at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset since her Dec. 14 arrest.

According to an affidavit filed in December, police believe Gatto caused the death of Chick, who died of blunt-force trauma to the abdomen but also had serious injuries to her head, neck and limbs.

Gatto was caring for Chick in the home they shared with Stephen Hood, the girl’s grandfather and Gatto’s fiance, as well as two of Gatto’s grandchildren. Emergency personnel were called to the home after Chick was found unresponsive in an empty bathtub.

According to police, it was Gatto who called 911 after finding the girl. She said she stepped away to get the girl some chocolate milk and returned to find her unconscious.

Chick was taken by ambulance to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick but could not be saved.

According to a police report and an application for a search warrant filed with the court, Gatto’s account of what happened did not align with the forensic evidence gathered from the home or with the evidence found during Chick’s autopsy.


The medical examiner’s report showed Chick had suffered blunt-force trauma to her abdomen resulting in lacerations to her pancreas and parts of her digestive tract. That blow to the abdomen occurred between one and 12 hours before she died, court records say.

In addition to the abdominal injuries, the girl had suffered multiple injuries of varying age to her head, neck and limbs, indicating she suffered trauma in the past. A further microscopic examination of her thymus gland showed signs of chronic physiological stress.

There also was physical evidence in the home that seemed to point to prior instances of violence against the girl. Evidence technicians found red-brown stains that presumptively tested positive for blood on sheets of a bunk bed where Chick slept and on the bathtub where she was found by emergency personnel. Technicians also documented blood near a round indentation in a wall in Chick’s bedroom that seemed to correspond with the size of the girl’s head.

Blood also was found on paper towels in a wastebasket in the bathroom and on a towel in a laundry hamper in the kitchen. A sponge found in the bathtub also tested positive for blood.

The girl had been placed at the home in January by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, according to the affidavit, although it was not clear why the state was involved or whether the girl was legally in the custody of the state when she died. State officials have refused to comment on the case and the girl’s parents have not been identified.

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