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Caregiver sentenced to 50 years in beating death of girl

June 25, 2019

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A 44-year-old Wiscasset woman has been sentenced to 50 years in prison in the fatal beating a 4-year-old girl in her care.

Superior Court Justice William Stokes decided against a life sentence for Shawna Gatto during a Tuesday morning hearing. Her attorneys, who sought a 30-year sentence, had argued she is not a “monster” and does not deserve a life sentence.

In April, Stokes found Gatto guilty of depraved indifference murder in the death of Kendall Chick in her home in December 2017. Kendall was placed in the home of Gatto and Gatto’s fiance, Stephen Hood, while Kendall’s mother battled addiction.

Gatto, who declined to testify in her own defense, asked for the case to be heard by a judge, not a jury, because of the emotionally charged testimony involved. Prosecutors had called for 65 years to life for what they called a “beating death, over a period of months.”

The judge said Gatto should have asked for help if she was feeling overwhelmed while caring for Kendall and two other small children.

The case has sparked numerous child welfare reforms aimed at hiring and retaining more caseworkers.

Witnesses testified that Kendall’s body was covered with bruises and one of her eyes was swollen shut when responders discovered her lifeless body. An autopsy showed the girl had more than a dozen injuries consistent with severe abuse.

Gatto’s attorney, who didn’t immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday, has argued that no one saw her hurt the youngster.

Hood testified that he spanked Kendall once but felt so bad about it that he never disciplined her that way again.

Testimony during Gatto’s trial indicated a Maine DHHS caseworker visited the home once over the three years that the girl lived with the couple.

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