BELFAST, Maine — State prosecutors are asking the court to sentence Julio Carrillo to life in prison for the murder of his 10-year-old stepdaughter, Marissa Kennedy, describing her beating death as torture that deeply affected the wider community.
But Carrillo’s attorney has a slightly different sentence in mind for his 52-year-old client, who pleaded guilty last month to the charge of depraved indifference murder. In a memo submitted Wednesday, Carrillo’s attorney Darrick X. Banda asked the state for a sentence of 35 to 40 years in prison, saying that his client admitted responsibility, waived his right to a trial and pleaded guilty without making plea deal.
“Given his acceptance of responsibility and age, there is the prospect of rehabilitation,” Banda wrote.
Sentencing is scheduled for next week with Justice Robert Murray presiding. Both Carrillo and his wife, 34-year-old Sharon Carrillo, were charged with murder following the February 2018 death of Kennedy at their home in Stockton Springs. Sharon Carrillo’s trial for the murder of her daughter is scheduled for December, but her defense team claims she was also a victim of Julio Carrillo, and that they believe prosecutors should dismiss the charge against her.
What happened to Kennedy, who suffered months of physical abuse before her death, is especially significant because the Maine Department of Health and Human Services had received multiple reports alleging that she was being abused. Her death, and the similar December 2017 death of 4-year-old Kendall Chick in Wiscasset, focused intense scrutiny on the state’s child welfare system.
The impact of her death was mentioned by prosecutors in the state’s sentencing memo, which also was filed Wednesday. The document detailed Kennedy’s injuries, suffering, and the effect her death had on the community and likely will have on her two younger siblings, who were in the house when she was beaten and killed.
“It is simply unbearable to think of a young child, wholly dependent on her adult caregivers, being viciously beaten to death by those caregivers,” assistant attorneys general Leane Zainea and Donald Macomber wrote. “Marissa’s death has deeply affected all that knew her, as well as those that initially responded to her home and discovered her battered body to those seasoned investigators who gathered evidence of this horrific crime. Marissa’s death sparked statewide outrage … and will be remembered by many for years to come.”
In the memo, prosecutors said that Carrillo eventually admitted to investigators that he and his wife forced the girl to kneel naked on a tile floor for hours every day for months as a form of punishment, and that they would beat her with their hands, with a belt and with a metal mop handle so hard that the mop broke in half.
“This is not, if there is such a thing, a ‘run of the mill’ murder,” prosecutors wrote. “The nature and seriousness of the way this murder was committed justifies a basic sentence of life imprisonment.”
Possible mitigating factors
Although there are factors that could lessen Carrillo’s sentence — specifically his acceptance of responsibility, his family support and his lack of prior criminal record — they do not outweigh the aggravating factors, according to prosecutors.
But Banda argued differently. He described his client as a person who grew up in a happy home and has a good work and volunteer history. In 2013, he met Sharon Carrillo at the New York Walmart where they both worked, and the couple came to Maine in 2016. They initially settled in Bangor but moved to the condo in Stockton Springs that Sharon Carrillo’s parents owned.
Carrillo has significant mitigating factors that could lead to a shorter sentence, Banda wrote, with the most important the fact that he has accepted responsibility. Other relevant factors include his age, the attorney said, because older defendants have lower rates of recidivism compared to those who are younger, and elderly inmates are vulnerable to abuse and predation in prison.
“[Carrillo] has already encountered several instances of predation while incarcerated,” Banda wrote. “He has had to fight off groups of individuals set on inflicting him harm. He has not always escaped without injury. As [he] gets older, it will become increasingly difficult for him to defend himself against such attacks.”
Another, likely more controversial, mitigating factor suggested by the attorney is his client’s lack of parenting experience. With financial challenges, three children, inconsistent work, and the “constant” hospitalizations of both Sharon Carrillo and Marissa Kennedy for mental health and behavioral issues, Banda wrote that it was a stressful household.
“It is not out of the realm of reasonable consideration that [Carrillo’s] conduct came on the heels of being overwhelmed with his family situation,” he wrote.
However, state prosecutors, who also are asking the court to order Carrillo to pay $6,100 to the Victim’s Compensation Board for funeral expenses and crime scene cleaning, don’t put it that way.
“This was not a situation of inexperienced young persons that were simply overwhelmed with the first-time challenges of raising a child,” prosecutors wrote. “Instead, Julio and Sharon targeted Marissa Kennedy and left the two younger, active children unscathed.”