Stephen Hood, grandfather to 4-year-old Kendall Chick, faced cross-examination by Philip Cohen for the defense Friday morning. Hood's fiancée Shawna Gatto is on trial for murder in Chick's death on Dec. 8, 2017. During the state’s direct examination, Hood acknowledge speaking to Gatto and visiting her at Two Bridges Regional Jail on both Wednesday evening and Thursday during the court break.
Assistant Attorney General John Alsop asked why Hood had not taken the child to see a doctor in the nearly two years she lived with them. Hood said Gatto assured him that because she was a nurse’s aide, she could handle anything that came up, and would know if Chick needed a doctor. He said taking a child out with the kinds of injuries she had would “raise questions” about how she came by the bruises and lacerations. He did take her with him to his substance use doctors, Sam Zagar in Portland and Sarah White in Brunswick, and one of those times, they spent a few minutes discussing his medical issues and the rest of the visit talking about Chick. Hood said he thought she should have seen a doctor after her head injury, but Gatto convinced him she could handle it.
Asked if he had firsthand knowledge of how that and other injuries occurred, Hood said no. He also said he learned of the indentation in the wall in the summer, when Gatto pointed it out, and they speculated how it could have come about. He said Gatto suggested Chick had run into the wall with her head. He denied any knowledge of the blood spatter in the bedroom or anywhere else in the house.
He said he asked Gatto to make the call to 9-1-1 while he did chest compressions on Chick, but that Gatto refused. Hood made the call while Gatto called her mother, son, and texted her daughter-in-law at the hospital where she worked. “She said we can’t,” Hood said.
When Cohen began his cross examination, he tried to reinforce Hood’s assertion that he had heard Kendall’s voice before he left the house for the hardware store. He never left the yard before Gatto called him and told him to get back to the house.
Cohen asked if Gatto and her grandson were acting normally when Hood came in, and made the case that they wouldn’t be acting normally if something traumatic had happened. Hood, however, said while Gatto was acting normally, her normal behavior was “slightly perturbed” at the children. Cohen dropped that line of questioning and began to ask Hood about his criminal record.
Hood acknowledged he had several arrests and convictions for assault, dating from the early 1990s, with the latest one in 2004 for aggravated assault and domestic battery. The state objected, but was overruled.
Using text messages between Gatto and Hood as a springboard, Cohen asked about texts in which Hood asks Gatto to come home and deal with the children. He said most of his annoyance stemmed from Gatto going out and not coming back until late in the night, since the children were used to staying up late, even after Hood went to bed, and he was not able to go to sleep while they were up. “I wouldn’t take that out on the kids,” he said. “That’s not their fault.”
Cohen also pointed out that Hood still used drugs, and “snorted” suboxone, and asked if, under the influence of snorted drugs, while alone with the children, he could have hurt Kendall.
Hood denied it, saying he snorted suboxone, for which he has a prescription, only in the morning, so it doesn’t interfere with his coffee habit. He also mentioned that Gatto, too, used suboxone on a regular basis.
Cohen pressed the point. “No one was checking on Kendall, no one from DHHS, were they?”
“No,” Hood said.
“You got used to no one checking on her. You didn’t want to take her to the doctor. You didn’t want to take her out in public. You were concerned about calling 9-1-1 when she was in trouble. And you were alone with Kendall, when Shawna wasn’t home, and you were aggravated with the kids.”
“No,” Hood said. “And I wasn’t alone with the kids very much, anyway.” He pointed out that Gatto’s son often took the kids so he could sleep, and that Gatto’s mother also came to give them a break quite often.
After a brief redirect, Hood was excused. In the hallway outside the courtroom, Hood told the Wiscasset Newspaper, “That was brutal. I can’t believe they’re trying to pin this on me.”