Kendall Chick was just 4-years-old when she died in Wiscasset on December 8, 2017. According to police, Kendall died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen and had suffered prior abuse and neglect.
Born to parents who could not care for her, Kendall lived with her grandfather. His fiance, Shawna Gatto, is now being charged with the depraved indifference murder of the preschooler.
Marissa Kennedy never made it to the sixth grade. She died on Feb 25, 2018, in Stockton Springs. An autopsy indicated Marissa died as a result of extensive long-term physical abuse and had injuries including bleeding on the brain and a lacerated liver. She was 10-years-old.
Marissa’s pregnant mother and stepfather are accused of abusing her to the point she could no longer speak or walk and her eventual death. Sharon and Julio Carrillo are awaiting trial at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset.
For both of these young girls living in Maine, their chance to grow up was taken from them allegedly by their own caretakers.
Lawmakers have authorized a probe into the state's handling of any abuse complaints regarding both girls that Governor LePage called a 'comedy of errors'. The results of this investigation by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability is expected to be finished sometime in May, its results released in a written report.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ principal objective is to protect the health of all Mainers, especially those who are least able to help themselves. In both cases, questions have risen about the work of child protective services, and whether more should have been done.
An annual report by a neutral investigator revealed in early March that the DHHS Office of Child and Family Services failed to follow assessment policy, safety planning policy, and failed to "recognize risk to children in their parents' care" in multiple cases in 2017.
It is unknown if Kendall Chick or Marissa Kennedy's cases were among the 112 investigated, but the report reveals that recognizing children at risk is a recurring problem for DHHS.
We do not know any specifics of child protective services’ involvement with Marissa or Kendall.
DHHS is refusing to release Marissa Kennedy’s and Kendall Chick’s case files while their deaths are under investigation despite Maine Attorney General Janet Mills stating that the people of Maine deserve to know what their files contain and that any such release would not compromise their investigations.
“Believe me, I’d love to be able to share with you right now what I know,” DHHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton said when we asked him about DHHS involvement in Marissa’s case. “But I can't.”
Maine state law on disclosures involving child abuse and neglect investigations clearly states :
The commissioner shall make public disclosure of the findings or information pursuant to this section in situations where child abuse or neglect results in a child fatality or near fatality, with the exception of circumstances, as determined with the advice of the Attorney General or appropriate district attorney, in which disclosure of child protective information would jeopardize a criminal investigation or proceeding.
Attorney General Janet Mills says when “there's a deep public interest in what happened and what caused the child's death or very serious bodily injury, and that under very certain circumstances, [DHHS is] allowed to comment or to share information.”
In March, NEWS CENTER Maine filed complaints in Maine Superior Court, challenging the department's decision to withhold information to the public.
The complaint states "the public has a legitimate right to know how its publicly-funded Department of Health and Human Services responded to complaints and warnings relating to abuse of the child."
The only way to improve the systems in place is to recognize their weaknesses.
DHHS and its attorneys from the Maine Attorney General’s Office take the position that NEWS CENTER Maine does not have the right to this information and that it would interfere with the active criminal investigations.
On Tuesday, April 24, the case of NEWS CENTER Maine vs. Maine DHHS will be heard in Kennebec county superior court. A judge will make the final determination of whether DHHS is required to release details of its involvement with Marissa and Kendall.
We promise to bring you any and all details from the courtroom and the results of this case.