The Wiscasset woman under indictment on a charge of depraved indifference murder in connection with the death of 4-year-old Kendall Chick waived her right to a jury trial during a court appearance in Knox County the morning of Thursday, Aug. 30.
The decision by Shawna L. Gatto, 43, means Maine Superior Court Justice William R. Stokes will decide the outcome of the case after a bench trial.
Stokes tentatively scheduled a trial, expected to take five days, for the last week of January 2019.
During Thursday’s hearing, Stokes informed Gatto of her right to a jury trial and questioned her about whether she had discussed her decision with her defense team, Waldoboro attorney Philip S. Cohen and Camden attorney Jeremy Pratt.
Stokes and attorneys for Gatto and the state discussed other pretrial matters during Thursday’s hearing.
Stokes said he will review Chick’s records from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and decide whether to release them to the attorneys.
Gatto’s attorneys have filed a motion to suppress Gatto’s recorded statements to two investigators, Maine State Police Detective Joshua Birmingham and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jared Mitkus. The detectives recorded three hours of audio and video of their interactions with Gatto.
The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General John Alsop, and the defense attorneys will write briefs explaining their arguments.
Alsop and Pratt asked the detectives questions during the hearing. Both investigators were called to the scene and interviewed Gatto on the day of Chick’s death, Dec. 8, and again Dec. 10.
Mitkus and Birmingham answered questions about their interactions with Gatto, but did not say much about what was said in the interviews.
Birmingham said that at the end of an interview Dec. 10, he challenged Gatto about the way she recalled the events of Dec. 8, which is when she requested an attorney.
The defense attorneys said she had already requested an attorney and was not read her Miranda rights.
Stokes will review the recordings and make a decision about the motion by mid-September.
The defense attorneys also filed a motion to introduce information about Maine Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Mark Flomenbaum at trial.
Flomenbaum performed Chick’s autopsy. He was fired from the same position in Massachusetts in 2007.
Stokes will decide whether the attorneys can introduce the information before the trial.
Chick lived with her grandfather, Stephen Hood, and Gatto, Hood’s fiancee, at 19 Crickets Lane in Wiscasset from January 2017 until her death Dec. 8, 2017. DHHS placed her in the home.
Chick died of a blunt-force injury to the abdomen that caused “lacerations of her pancreas” and other internal injuries, according to a report by Maine State Police Detective Jonathan Heimbach, which cites Flomenbaum’s findings. She also sustained blunt-force trauma to the head and numerous other injuries, and showed signs of “chronic physiological stress.”
Maine State Police detectives arrested Gatto on Dec. 14. She has been in jail since. She was indicted Jan. 3.
Maine law differentiates between intentional or knowing murder and depraved indifference murder, but both charges carry the same sentence of 25 years to life. When a murder victim is under 6 years old, state law requires judges to “assign special weight” to their age in the sentencing process.
Hood and Gatto’s mother, Sandy Haler, were present at the hearing.
“We are supporting Shawna,” Hood said.