Legislature’s investigative arm to probe 2 child deaths and role of Maine DHHS

By Scott Thistle, Portland Press Herald | Mar 09, 2018

The investigative arm of the Legislature will launch a probe into the recent deaths of two Maine children who were slain in their homes after months of abuse, and how the Department of Health and Human Services and other public agencies failed to protect them.

“The system has clearly failed her, we all failed her,” Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said Friday in reference to 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy. “Who reported what, what kind of communication was there between law enforcement, schools, child protective services and how did the ball get dropped?”


Katz, the chairman of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, posed those questions just ahead of a 10-0 committee vote to launch the investigation.

Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, a physician who co-chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, requested the probe. She noted that Kennedy’s death, discovered by police on Feb. 25, was the second case of fatal child abuse in Maine involving children who apparently had been beaten for months. In December 2017, Kendall Chick, 4, of Wiscasset died. Chick had been placed by the state in the care of Shawna L. Gatto, 43, a foster parent, who is now accused of killing her.

A local police officer who responded to Chick’s home told state investigators he believed the child’s skull had been fractured, there were lacerations on her head, neck and face, bruising around her eyes, under her nose, and on the side of her face and neck. An autopsy later said she had suffered significant blunt-force trauma to her head and neck, in addition to her abdomen.

Kennedy’s mother, Sharon Carrillo, 33, and her step father, Julio Carrillo, 51, have been charged with depraved indifference murder in connection with Kennedy’s death. She died after police went to the family’s condominium in Stockton Springs and found her unresponsive. Police say the Carrillos staged her death to make it look like an accident.

Kennedy was beaten and abused for months, locked in a dark closet for hours, forced to kneel on a tile floor while being beaten with a belt or bare hands, according to court records in the case and police affidavits on statements made by her parents. A funeral for Kennedy at her grandfather’s hometown in upstate New York was planned for Saturday.

“Both (children) were serially abused over time and then killed by adults in the homes where they lived,” Hymanson said. “People I speak with are heartsick about the child abuse and this murder.”

The committee’s vote Friday will launch a two-part investigation by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, the Legislature’s watchdog agency, including an immediate “rapid response” review to determine what happened to these two children, Katz said.

Beth Ashcroft, the director of OPEGA, said the office had jurisdiction to review both state and local government entities and would do so with a goal of reporting back to the committee in early May.

Katz said he believed all involved would be cooperative in the probe, but also reminded his committee members they were the only legislative committee with subpoena powers and could compel testimony under a court order if need be.

“Hopefully that won’t be at all necessary here,” Katz said. “But I am sure we will do it, if it is. The public is asking we get to the bottom of this and we will get to the bottom of this.”

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