Attorneys for Sharon Carrillo, who is accused of helping to beat her 10-year-old daughter to death in 2018, are demanding that prosecutors return seven cellphones they believe could help exonerate their client.
The phones were found this April by Carrillo’s father, Joe Kennedy, who owns the Stockton Springs condominium where Marissa Kennedy was killed. When he turned on one of the phones and found photos of the girl that appeared to have been taken on the day she died, he gave them all to his daughter’s defense attorneys. They were not the only phones found in the home — several other cellphones in the condominium had been seized by police after Kennedy’s death, according to Carrillo’s attorneys.
The lawyers immediately turned the seven phones over to prosecutors from the Maine Attorney General’s office, according to a motion filed last week at the Waldo Judicial Center. But after several months with no action taken on the phones, his daughter’s lawyers want them back and are asking a judge to order their return.
“We gave [prosecutors] the phones and asked them to search them. They said no. We asked for them to be given back. They said no. We are being forced to file a motion. It does feel unusual,” Laura Shaw of Camden Law said Tuesday. “Usually, the state does everything it can to search things. It’s very rare for the state to have evidence before it and claim it doesn’t have probable cause to search.”
The fight over the cellphones is the most recent skirmish in the legal battle over the fate of Sharon Carrillo, 34. Her husband, Julio Carrillo, 52, last month pleaded guilty to the depraved indifference murder of Marissa Kennedy and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 28. The state is seeking a life sentence for him. But Shaw and Christopher MacLean, Sharon Carrillo’s attorneys, are arguing that their client was another of Julio Carrillo’s victims, and that prosecutors should dismiss the charge of depraved indifference murder against her altogether.
Police have said that Sharon Carrillo also beat Marissa Kennedy for months and then helped make her daughter’s death look like an accident. She later told investigators she also was abused by Julio Carrillo and was coerced into claiming equal responsibility for the crime.
Carrillo, who has been held in jail since her arrest in February 2018, is scheduled to be tried in December on the charge of murder.
The phones could be significant to her case, Shaw said, adding that she and MacLean believe they likely contain evidence that would be favorable to their client, although they do not know that for sure.
“We didn’t even look at them. We immediately turned them over to the state, thinking they contained important evidence,” she said.
They thought this in part because several other cellphones that had been found in the house and seized by police did contain such evidence. Shaw did not know the exact number of phones in the home, and was not sure why there were so many, but said it might be connected to the family’s financial situation.
“I know that once they moved up here [ from New York state], Sharon wasn’t allowed to work, and Julio’s employment history is a little bit spotty,” she said. “I think that finances were probably very tight, and my impression of these phones is that they were prepaid. I don’t know that that really explains why there were so many phones, but Julio continued to use the phones to take photos and videos.”
Among the photos found in the other cellphones in the home were images that the attorneys described as “ghastly” and “monstrous.”
“[There was a] photo showing Marissa Kennedy and Sharon Carrillo naked on the floor with their arms held in the air, and videos made by Julio Carrillo causing extreme emotional distress to Marissa Kennedy and Sharon Carrillo while seemingly taking pleasure in it,” defense attorneys wrote in the motion.
The seven phones found in April by Joe Kennedy were not hidden from police investigators, but were left behind because Julio Carrillo told Maine State Police detectives that the phones were broken and did not contain any relevant data, the motion said.
Given the evidence found on the other phones, it is surprising to Shaw and MacLean that prosecutors have determined they do not have probable cause to examine the contents of the seven additional phones.
“This explanation defies credulity,” the attorneys said in the motion.
Because Julio Carrillo has pleaded guilty, the contents of the phones have no bearing on his case, they wrote, and Sharon Carrillo gave the phones to the state so they could be analyzed.
“It is an established fact that Julio Carrillo used cellphones to record and preserve images of ghastly and monstrous abuse,” they wrote. “[His] statements to detectives to discourage them from analyzing the phones should cause any reasonable person investigating the matter to pay extra attention to the content of those phones.”
The attorneys said they believed that the only logical explanation for the state’s decision not to analyze the phones is because prosecutors feel they have all the evidence against Sharon Carrillo they need and that they are concerned the phones will contain more content that is exculpatory to their client.
On Tuesday, prosecutors had not yet filed a response to the motion for return of property and had no comment on the matter. Justice Robert Murray will decide whether or not to return the seven cellphones to Sharon Carrillo’s attorneys.