Shawna Gatto enters Lincoln County Superior Court on Tuesday for sentencing in the death of Kendall Chick. (Gregory Rec / Portland Press Herald)

WISCASSET — Shawna Gatto has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for the murder of 4-year-old Kendall Chick in late 2017.

A judge ruled the girl’s death shortly after her fourth birthday was the result of brutal physical abuse, and the case helped drive a review of Maine’s child welfare system and a series of reforms intended to improve protections for abused children.

Kendall Chick died with multiple injuries.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 65 years to life for Gatto, who is 44, while defense lawyers argued for a 30-year sentence. The judge listened to arguments Tuesday morning before calling for a recess so he could consider his decision.

During the sentencing hearing, the state’s prosecutor said “this was a beating death, over a period of months, of a small child.” Gatto’s lawyer argued his client is “not the monster” that life sentences are intended for.

Gatto was convicted of depraved indifference murder on April 30, with Superior Court Justice William Stokes dismissing Gatto’s contention that bruises on the girl, Kendall Chick, were the result of accidents. The conviction meant Gatto faces a potential sentence of 25 years to life.

“The physical abuse suffered by Kendall Chick, when viewed objectively and in the totality of all the circumstances, can only be described as outrageous, revolting, shocking and brutal,” Stokes said in announcing his verdict in a non-jury trial in April. The charge, depraved indifference murder, indicates that Stokes believed Gatto showed no regard for the value of Kendall’s life.


Gatto’s lawyers said they are appealing the verdict.

Shawna Gatto, charged with depraved indifference murder in the death of four-year-old Kendall Chick, raises a tissue to her face during her sentencing hearing in Lincoln County Superior Court in Wiscasset. (Gregory Rec / Portland Press Herald)

Kendall was born drug-affected and had been taken away from her mother’s care before she turned two. She was placed in the custody of her grandfather, Stephen Hood. Gatto, Hood’s fiancee, regularly watched Chick and Gatto’s two other young grandchildren, while Hood worked.

During a non-jury trial before Stokes in April, prosecutors said Gatto was frustrated at having to care for three young children at a stage in her life when her own children were grown.

The state’s chief medical examiner said Kendall had more than a dozen distinct injuries, including an injury to her abdomen that lacerated her pancreas and caused internal bleeding.

“She had been under stress for a long time, we’re talking weeks or months,” Dr. Mark Flomebaum testified.

Prosecutors said Gatto had no good explanation for the injuries, which seemed to occur when no one other than Gatto was around. And Stokes said he agreed with other evidence presented by prosecutors that Kendall’s injuries were inflicted, not accidental.

Gatto’s lawyers called witnesses who described the woman as loving toward the girl and said they never saw Gatto discipline Kendall. Gatto did not take the stand

Kendall’s death and the death of a 10-year old, Marissa Kennedy of Stockton Springs, prompted calls for an overhaul of the state’s child protective system. Marissa died about two months after Kendall and police believe she was beaten to death by her mother and stepfather. The parents, Sharon Carillo and Julio Carillo, have been charged with murder and will go to trial separately later this year.

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