- Associated Press - Friday, March 9, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A legislative watchdog decided Friday to investigate the actions of the state’s child welfare system, school officials and police following the brutal beating of a 10-year-old girl whose mother and stepfather are charged in her death.

The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee voted unanimously to launch an investigation by an independent watchdog agency into the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and others following the death of Marissa Kennedy on Feb. 25 in Stockton Springs.

“The system has clearly failed her. We all failed her,” Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, co-chairman of the committee, said Friday.

The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability aims to produce a “rapid response” report within months on the handling of the deaths of Marissa and another girl, 4-year-old Kendall Chick, who died in December in Wiscasset.

A larger look at the state’s child welfare system will be completed next year.

The committee vote came a day before the funeral for Marissa, who will be laid to rest Saturday in Newburgh, New York. The request for an investigation was submitted by Rep. Patricia Hymanson, D-York, co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

An internal review of the state’s actions already is underway.

Julio and Sharon Carrillo, of Stockton Springs, are both charged with murder in Marissa’s death. The Carrillos admitted taking turns beating the girl for several months and tried to make her death look like an accident, authorities said.

School officials and neighbors said they reported suspected abuse of Marissa.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who was a victim of abuse as a child, has decried the state’s handling of the case “a comedy of errors.”

In the Wiscasset case, the fiancee of Kendall’s grandfather, Shawna Gatto, has been charged with murder. The state had placed Kendall in the care of Gatto.

In Maine, murder carries a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum of life. In both of the child deaths, the specific charges allow jurors to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter.

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