UPDATE: State investigation into Marissa Kennedy’s death to take place in two phases
AUGUSTA — The Maine Joint Legislative Government Oversight Committee (GOC) voted March 9 in favor of opening an investigation into the recent deaths of two Maine children, according to Senate President Mike Thibodeau.
Ten-year-old Marissa Kennedy died Feb. 25, following months of brutal daily beatings, allegedly at the hands of both her mother and stepfather, who were both arrested for depraved indifference murder the following day. Both Julio Carrillo, 51, and Sharon Carrillo, 33, remain in custody at Two Bridges Regional Jail, in Wiscasset.
The second child death that will be included in the investigation is that of 4-year-old Kendall Chick, of Wiscasset, whose grandfather’s then-fiance, Shawna Gatto, has been charged with depraved indifference murder in relation to the girl’s December 2017 death.
There will reportedly be a two-phase approach to the investigation, which will be undertaken by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA), a nonpartisan independent legislative office consisting of 10 individuals.
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.
The first part of the investigation will take place over the next five to six weeks, during which staff from OPEGA will be gathering information and interviewing relevant parties. All information gathered will then be put into a report and presented to the GOC, which will hold a public hearing on the results of the investigation the following week, according to GOC chairman Sen. Roger Katz.
“[OPEGA is] off and running with their investigation, which takes place behind the scenes, so to speak, and then they’ll be reporting back to us,” Katz said.
Though the GOC doesn’t instruct OPEGA in how to conduct its investigation or whom to speak with, Katz said he expects DHHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton will be interviewed, in addition to any police agencies involved, any schools involved, and any specific caseworkers who worked with the family.
The GOC will most likely not receive updates prior to OPEGA’s report, but can get involved should investigators run into trouble securing any information.
“[The GOC is] unique among legislative committees in that we have subpoena powers,” he said of the Committee’s ability to compel cooperation.
Katz said the GOC is scheduled to hear the phase one report May 2, although that is subject to change depending on need. The findings will be released to the public the same day and a public hearing is tentatively scheduled for May 8.
The results of the investigation will be reviewed at the hearing and certain people from the investigation may be asked to attend. Following the hearing, the second phase of the investigation will begin, which involves figuring out what steps can be taken to ensure another child doesn’t suffer the same tragic end.
Katz declined to say whether any individual or agency could face punitive measures depending on the findings of OPEGA’s investigation saying he didn’t want to prejudge what the investigation is going to show or what recommendations the GOC may want to make as a result.
The GOC is a standing committee consisting of 12 members, with six members of the Maine House of Representatives and six members from the Maine State Senate. The committee is also evenly split between republicans and democrats.
Senator Thibodeau said the committee members are chosen by either the Senate President or the Speaker of the House, depending on their membership, with Senator Roger J. Katz, acting as the chairman of the committee.
Senate members include Senators Roger J. Katz, R-Kennebec; Nathan L. Libby, D-Androscoggin; Paul T. Davis Sr., R-Piscataquis; Bill Diamond, D-Cumberland; Geoffrey M. Gratwick, D-Penobscot; and Thomas Saviello, R-Franklin.
House members include Representatives Anne-Marie Mastraccio, D-Sanford; Jeffrey K. Pierce, R-Dresden; Jennifer L. DeChant, D-Bath; Matthew A. Harrington, R-Sanford; Deane Rykerson (D-Kittery), and Paula G. Sutton, R-Warren.
The mission of the GOC is: “To oversee program evaluation and government accountability matters in State government. The Committee seeks to ensure that public funds are expended for intended purposes, that programs and activities are effectively, efficiently and economically managed. The Committee accomplishes this mission by conducting public inquiries and directing the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to conduct independent, objective reviews of State agencies and programs and other entities receiving public funds or expending private monies for public purposes,” according to its website.
The next meeting of the GOC is March 23, at 9 a.m., Room 220 Cross Building, in the Insurance and Financial Services Committee Room. To keep abreast of the GOC’s agenda, click here: legislature.maine.gov/opega/goc-meetings/9151
Erica Thoms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org