A Wiscasset woman charged with murder in the death of a 4-year-old girl in her care is asking a judge to throw out statements she made to law enforcement.

Shawna Gatto, 43, will appear in a Rockland court Thursday morning for a hearing on motions by her attorney. She has pleaded not guilty to depraved indifference murder. That charge alleges that whether or not she intended to cause the child’s death, she acted with depraved indifference to the value of human life.

Kendall Chick died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen, and had suffered from prior abuse and neglect as well, police said. Her death on Dec. 8, 2017, was one of two in Maine last winter that were blamed on child abuse.

It prompted an investigation by the Legislature and calls to overhaul the state’s child protection system. The case comes amid a startling increase in confirmed cases of physical abuse of Maine children – 52 percent from 2008 to 2016.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services had placed Kendall with Stephen Hood, her paternal grandfather, and Gatto, his fiancée, in January 2017. Gatto told police she had been caring for the little girl the day she was found unresponsive in a bathtub, and police said they found bloodstains in multiple places in their home. Gatto was charged in December and has been in jail since.

Jeremy Pratt, who represents Gatto along with attorney Philip Cohen, filed a motion last month to suppress all statements she made to law enforcement after Dec. 10, 2017, arguing that she had already requested an attorney and was not properly informed of her Miranda rights at the time.


The motion does not cite specific comments by Gatto, and a spokeswoman for the Maine Attorney General’s Office said they are not part of the public record. But an arrest affidavit includes comments she made during the 911 call and her initial description of events to police.

“Shawna Gatto indicated she put Kendall Chick in the bathtub and she was fine, she went to get Kendall Chick chocolate milk a few feet away in the kitchen and returned to find Kendall Chick unresponsive in the tub,” the affidavit reads.

The detective who wrote the affidavit then said Gatto’s version of events did not match the physical evidence found in the home or the autopsy findings.

Gatto’s attorneys also filed a motion related to the state’s chief medical examiner, Mark Flomenbaum, who performed the autopsy on Kendall.

Gatto’s attorneys are asking the judge to allow them to introduce information at trial about Flomenbaum’s firing from the same job in Massachusetts in 2007. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court denied an appeal earlier this year on behalf of convicted murderer Keith Coleman who said he should have been able to question Flomenbaum on the same issue at trial.

“Although we conclude that the court abused its discretion by foreclosing Coleman’s cross-examination of the chief medical examiner concerning his termination from his position as chief medical examiner in Massachusetts, the error was harmless in the face of the overwhelming evidence of Coleman’s guilt,” the majority opinion stated.

The hearing Thursday will begin at 9 a.m. at the Knox County courthouse.

Shawna Gatto sits next to her lawyer, Philip Cohen, in Lincoln County Superior Court in Wiscasset in January. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)

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