A mother and stepfather accused of beating a 10-year-old Stockton Springs girl to death will be held on $500,000 bail, a judge decided Wednesday.
Julio Carrillo, 51, and Sharon Carrillo, 33, made their first appearance in Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast on Wednesday afternoon. They arrived in separate vans from Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, and officers ushered them separately through the back entrance of the courthouse. They each wore handcuffs and shackles.
Investigators arrested the Carrillos on Monday and charged them with depraved indifference murder in the death of Sharon Carrillo’s 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Kennedy, who allegedly suffered months of violent abuse at the hands of her mother and stepfather.
Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, in asking Superior Court Justice Robert Murray to set high bail amounts, said the abuse the Carrillos inflicted on Marrissa multiple times per day every day “can only be described as torture.”
At this, Sharon Carrillo broke into tears and began shaking her head back and forth.
“Given the severity of her conduct, she would pose an extreme flight risk,” Macomber said, adding that the Carrillos had only lived in Maine for about two years and had no family, no jobs, and no ties to the area that would prevent them from fleeing if they were released.
Unlike a premeditated murder charge, a depraved indifference charge allows the defendant a chance at bail. If convicted, Julio and Sharon Carrillo would be sentenced to 25 years minimum in prison. The maximum sentence is life.
Superior Court Justice Robert Murray set bail at $500,000 cash for each defendant, an amount neither is likely to be able to meet with no option for third-person surety. They also are barred from being around any children younger than 15.
Both co-defendants qualified for court-appointed attorneys because of their lack of financial resources. Murray assigned Rockland-based attorney Steven Peterson to Julio Carrillo, while Christopher MacLean, a defense attorney from Camden, will represent Sharon Carrillo.
Peterson and MacLean said after the appearance that they hadn’t had a chance to review the evidence in the case at this early stage, so they didn’t offer much comment. Both said they plan to have their clients’ mental health evaluated.
The state has filed a motion to try the Carrillos together, but their defense attorneys said they’ll decide whether to resist that motion after reviewing the case.
MacLean hinted that he would be “looking closely” at Julio Carrillo and what influence he might have had over his wife, as well as the extent of his role in the alleged abuse of Marrissa.
“I think there’s a lot going on in this family,” MacLean said.
Macomber said that Sharon Carrillo had no evident criminal history, while her husband has a domestic violence conviction out of Kentucky dating back to 2000. State police have said that local police were sent to the Stockton Springs condo the Carrillos were staying in as well as their previous address in Bangor for reported domestic disputes.
The Carrillos allegedly told detectives they “punished” Marrissa regularly since October by forcing her to kneel on the kitchen’s tile floor and hold her hands above her head while either Sharon or Julio struck her in the abdomen or ribs with a belt or their fists. They said they had her kneel on the tile because it was the most uncomfortable surface in the house, according to court documents.
Julio Carrillo also allegedly told investigators they’d used a metal mop in place of the belt during one of these ritual “punishment sessions,” and struck the girl so hard the mop snapped in half, the affidavit states.
Both parents told investigators they decided not to seek medical help for Marrissa when she stopped moving and her speech started slurring after one of these beatings on Feb. 22 or 23. They “punished” her again because they believed she was pretending.
After Marrissa died of her injuries, the Carrillos allegedly attempted to stage a scene in the basement in hopes of tricking police into believing that the girl had fallen while playing. Julio Carrillo called 911 on the afternoon of Feb. 24, claiming he’d discovered the girl unresponsive and bleeding from the mouth in the basement next to the furnace.
Investigators questioned that story after they couldn’t find any evidence of blood in the basement and saw the extent of the girl’s injuries.
The medical examiner’s office listed Marrissa’s cause of death as battered child syndrome and listed injuries including bleeding in the brain, a lacerated liver and “multiple old injuries.”
A Maine State Police spokesman has said that Marrissa hadn’t been to school since November. It’s unclear whether her absence from school was reported to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS doesn’t reveal whether individuals have been reported or investigated for claims of child abuse or neglect.
Chris Downing, superintendent of the Stockton Springs and Searsport school district where Marrissa was briefly a student, issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon. The statement didn’t name Marrissa, and the district hasn’t been willing to speak about her individually, citing privacy concerns.
“The death of a child is the ultimate tragedy,” Downing wrote. “The idea that this happened to a precious child is one that we are coping with while supporting our children, staff and community. It is not easy.”
To locate your local Domestic Violence Resource Center, call the statewide helpline at 866-834-HELP (4357) or visit www.mcedv.org. For resources or support to prevent child abuse, call 1-800-422-4453.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.
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Correction: An earlier version of this report included an incorrect spelling for Marissa Kennedy's first name. The Department of Public Safety provided inaccurate information.