WISCASSET, Maine — A Superior Court justice ruled Wednesday that he will not review a 50-year sentence imposed on a Wiscasset woman convicted of murdering her fiancee's four-year-old granddaughter.
Justice William R. Stokes denied a petition filed by Shawna Gatto claiming ineffective assistance of counsel during her 2019 trial and conviction of depraved indifference murder of Kendall Chick on Dec. 8, 2017.
In May 2020, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court rejected an appeal of the conviction, agreeing with the trial court that the long-term abuse inflicted on Chick was "torture."
Gatto was charged with murder on Dec. 14, 2017, and pleaded not guilty at a Jan. 12, 2018, arraignment. On Aug. 30, 2017, she waived her right to a jury trial.
Gatto was convicted on April 8, 2019, following a five-day trial before Stokes.
Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, who prosecuted the case, said Wednesday, “The State is pleased with Justice Stokes’s well-reasoned decision. He totally rejected her self-serving claim that her lawyers were to blame for her conviction and resulting 50-year sentence. Instead, he properly found that the only one to blame was herself.”
Throughout the trial, Gatto said the injuries Chick suffered were the result of accidents, but medical experts consulted by Gatto's attorneys, Jeremy Pratt and Philip Cohen, did not support that theory, Stokes wrote in his decision.
Her attorneys then attempted to blame Chick's injuries on her grandfather, Steve Hood Jr., who was Gatto's fiance and who lived with them in the Wiscasset home. But Gatto refused to accuse Hood of abusing either her or Chick, Stokes wrote.
Gatto claimed in her petition that she was not comfortable with Cohen, who died in September 2020, and that her communication with both attorneys was inadequate.
But Stokes wrote, "The court finds that Ms. Gatto is and was more intelligent and knowledgeable about her case than she portrays. At least part of her frustration at, and discomfort with, her attorneys stemmed from the fact that she could not face the reality of what had happened to Kendall and what she was facing as the potential consequences of that reality."