Release of state investigation report into death of two children pushed to May 24
AUGUSTA — A state investigation into the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) handling of the cases of two Maine children allegedly murdered by their caretakers has postponed the return date of a phase-one report, according to Senator Roger Katz, who said investigators needed more time.
The Maine Joint Legislative Government Oversight Committee (GOC), chaired by Senator Katz, voted March 9 to open an investigation into the deaths of four-year-old Kendall Chick and 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy, both girls reportedly died as a result of child abuse from the people charged with their care.
The investigation is being undertaken by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA), which is a nonpartisan independent legislative office consisting of 10 individuals.
The mother and stepfather of Marissa Kennedy, Sharon and Julio Carrillo, 33 and 51 respectively, were arrested the day after her February 25 death in the Stockton Springs home they shared.
They have both been charged with depraved indifference murder and have been in custody at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset since their arrest.
Marissa was reportedly brutally beaten every single day, often more than once, for months before finally succumbing to her injuries. During the beatings, which both Carrillos described in police interviews as “punishments,” Marissa was forced to kneel on kitchen tile with her arms raised while she was beaten on her torso with fists and a metal mop handle. Her cause of death was listed as beaten child syndrome, with injuries including bleeding on the brain and a lacerated liver.
Four-year-old Kendall Chick, of Wiscasset, died in December, reportedly at the hands of her grandfather’s then-fiance, Shawna Gatto. Gatto was arrested and charged with depraved indifference murder in relation to the little girl’s death.
The investigation has been divided into two phases: the first a more general investigation into the DHHS handling of the two cases, and the second, a more targeted phase where the results of the first phase will be used to hone in on areas of concern.
The findings of the first phase were due to be returned to the GOC May 2, though the date has been pushed ahead to May 24. The results will be released to the general public the same day.
“The OPEGA staff is working as hard as they can to get this done as quickly as possible, but it’s complicated,” Katz said.
OPEGA: “conducts objective and independent performance audits of state government programs and activities to ensure they are achieving intended results and are effective, efficient and economical. Within this context, OPEGA also evaluates compliance with laws, regulations, policies, and procedure,” according to its mission statement.
During this initial phase of the investigation, the staff from OPEGA have been gathering information and interviewing relevant parties.
Sen. Katz said that the GOC has issued several subpoenas to schools in Bangor and Searsport, in addition to the Department of Education. He said the subpoenas were not a result of agencies being uncooperative, but rather a belief that subpoenas would be required in order to comply with the strict confidentiality laws.
“It’s challenging because we have to interface with [the] many confidentiality laws that apply to educational and child protective records, so we’re just trying to navigate through that thicket of issues,” he said.
Erica Thoms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org