Who is the real Sharon Carrillo?
Her defense attorneys portrayed her Thursday as a woman so afraid of her husband, and so vulnerable because of her developmental disabilities, that her guilt-laden words after her 10-year-old daughter Marissa Kennedy’s death should not be held against her.
But prosecutors see a different Sharon. To them, she is a woman who calmly gave detectives a tour of her home, who admitted she was an active, equal participant in her daughter’s beatings and who knew what she was doing when she confessed to police.
Both versions of the 34-year-old were described at the Waldo Judicial Center on Thursday, the first day of a two-day hearing to determine if statements she made to the police in the days after Marissa’s death will be admissible at trial. Both she and her husband, Julio Carrillo, 52, who was seated behind her in the courtroom, have been charged with depraved indifference murder after Marissa’s death in February 2018.
On Thursday, Justice Robert Murray reviewed some of the evidence that Sharon Carrillo’s defense team would like to suppress, including a walk-through video of the family’s Stockton Springs home that police made not long after Marissa was found dead.
Sharon Carrillo cried in court as she watched the video. On screen, Carrillo, who was so soft-spoken with detectives she was at times barely audible, gave detectives a grim tour through the condominium where she, Julio Carrillo, Marissa and Marissa’s two younger half-siblings lived.
She took detectives to the basement where she and her husband had initially told police that Marissa had fatally hurt herself when she was there alone, watching the movie “Despicable Me.” She showed them the bedroom where her daughter had died, pointing out what appeared to be brown bloodstains on the mattress where Marissa had been placed by Julio Carrillo, the girl’s stepfather.
She showed them the belt and the blue kitchen mop, both tools she said that she and Julio used to beat Marissa. And she showed them the tile floor where she said Marissa would kneel while she was beaten.
“Where was it you would do the beating?” Detective Scott Quintero asked her.
“Right around here,” Sharon Carrillo answered in the video, indicating a spot on the tiled floor.
The detective kneeled down and raised his arms up high.
“If I’m her, I kneel down here like this,” Quintero said. “Where would you hit me?”
The woman on the screen cooperatively showed him, while the woman sitting in the courtroom simply wept.
There were other hard-to-absorb moments in the walk-through video, too, including Sharon Carrillo’s description of Marissa’s last days, during which the girl became more and more unresponsive.
“I tried to talk to her. She was moaning around like this,” her mother said in the recording while swaying her body to and fro.
In the video, Sharon Carrillo also told the detectives that she and Julio Carrillo had beaten Marissa in part because he allegedly told her they had received text messages from Sharon’s stepmother, who owned the condominium, directing them to do so.
Not captured on video, but clear from the testimony of Quintero, the state’s primary investigator, were other disturbing details. Quintero said that Sharon Carrillo had told him that she hated her daughter because Marissa had written a letter saying that she didn’t want Sharon to be her mother anymore. He also testified that the girl’s injuries included the flesh on her knees being worn down to the bone, perhaps because she had been forced to kneel so long.
The detective also said in his testimony that he learned that a child welfare caseworker was in the house with the family two days before Marissa died. As well, he described Julio and Sharon Carrillo as being “friendly, at times sort of giggling,” when investigators came to their house.
“Their interactions with each other were completely normal, similar to any married couple,” he said, adding that he hadn’t seen signs of domestic violence.
But Chris MacLean of Camden, Sharon Carrillo’s defense attorney, indicated in his cross-examination of Quintero that things are not always what they seem. MacLean and his associate, Laura Shaw, are arguing that Sharon Carrillo suffered abuse at the hands of her husband. The fact that she was a victim of long-term abuse and suffers from developmental disabilities should prevent those statements to police from being used as evidence against her, they argued.
MacLean handed Quintero a blown-up photograph that had been taken from Julio Carrillo’s phone that allegedly showed both Sharon Carrillo and Marissa kneeling naked on the tile floor with their hands over their heads.
“This photograph that we’re talking about would suggest that there was, in fact, domestic violence,” MacLean said to the detective.
“There is a suggestion that that occurred,” Quintero responded.
Later in the hearing, Maine State Police detective Jason Andrews said in his testimony that Julio Carrillo told police said the picture was taken because Marissa was complaining about being forced to kneel and Sharon wanted to demonstrate that it wasn’t as bad as she said it was.
And although Quintero and Andrews reiterated Thursday that Sharon Carrillo understood her Miranda rights when the police read them to her and did not ask for a lawyer to be present while she was interviewed, her defense team worked to show she did not understand them well enough. They said that when detectives asked Sharon Carrillo leading questions, she simply followed them wherever they were going.
The last witness of the day was Robert Riley, a clinical neuropsychologist who conducts forensic evaluations for the state of Maine and did one for Sharon Carrillo.
He described at length a battery of specific tests that Sharon Carrillo has undergone since February 2018, which were meant to measured her intelligence, suggestibility and more. He said that she had attended a special high school for people with learning disabilities in New York, and that while she shows no indications of psychosis, tests did show she has borderline intellectual functioning.
Riley said that when he met with Sharon Carrillo, she told him that her husband was abusive, manipulative and controlling. Julio Carrillo would tell her things to frighten her, such as that there was a bomb under the car, and kept her from seeing her friends and family. According to what Sharon Carrillo told Riley, her husband would hide her phone, prevent her from getting a driver’s license and more.
“We know from the research that people with limited intellectual capacity are at risk of being in abusive, manipulative or controlling relationships,” Riley said.
Sharon Carrillo told him that when she told police she was 50 percent responsible for Marissa’s death, she did so because her husband had told her to say that.
“The motivating factor was a fear of Julio,” Riley said.