The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, on Tuesday, May 12, unanimously upheld the murder conviction of Shawna L. Gatto in the December 2017 death of 4-year-old Kendall Chick.
Gatto, 45, of Wiscasset, is serving a 50-year sentence at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.
The high-profile child abuse murders of Marissa Kennedy and Kendall Chick, which occurred only three months apart, prompted a state investigation into Maine’s flawed child welfare system.
Gatto was found guilty of depraved indifference murder on April 30, 2019 by Superior Court Justice William Stokes, following a jury-waived trial. She was sentenced the following June.
Stokes described the abuse inflicted by Gatto as “outrageous, revolting, shocking, and brutal” and said “such conduct can only be described as torture.”
The appeal was decided on briefs submitted to justices last month. The court did not hold oral arguments due to restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Gatto’s attorneys argued that there was insufficient evidence for the judge to conclude that she was the person who inflicted the fatal injury on the child. The justices disagreed. In the court’s 17-page opinion, Justice Joseph Jabar agreed with Stokes’ assessment of the injuries to the child.
“The duration of the abuse, its violence, the helplessness of the child, and Gatto’s denial of medical attention to the victim were properly characterized by the trial court as ‘cruel’ and as constituting ‘torture,’” he wrote.