"You did not intend this result. On the other hand, what you did do was horrid," Superior Court Justice William Stokes said during Tuesday's sentencing.
Gatto repeatedly abused -- and ultimately killed- her fiance's 4-year-old granddaughter, Kendall Chick, who had been placed in the home by the state. The child died from a final, fatal blow to the abdomen.
"It is difficult for me to even comprehend what Kendall went through," Stokes said.
While prosecutors pushed for a life sentence, Stokes said he did not feel it fit the crime, pointing out Gatto took care of Kendall and her own two grandchildren all day every day.
"We seem to have the telltale signs of a woman who is literally overwhelmed. She's not getting any help," he said.'
"It's just really sad. It's very sad," said Steve Hood, Kendall's grandfather and Gatto's fiance. He says Gatto does not deserve 50 years
"Shawna is a good person. She's not a monster," he said.
Asked about justice for Kendall, Hood said, "I love my granddaughter. I love them both. I've lost them both."
Hood did not address the court during the sentencing. In fact, no one gave any victim impact statements.
"I think that is a tragedy. The fact that the only person speaking on behalf of Kendall was me, is a tragedy," Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said.
Prosecutors had been looking at Hood's role in Kendall's death but said he will not face any charges. They believe Gatto's sentence makes a strong statement to the public.
"I think it does send a significant message to parents and other caregivers. Keep your hands to yourself. Don't beat children," Macomber said.
Defense attorneys declined to comment, other than to say they will be appealing both the sentence and verdict.