BELFAST, Maine — The murder trial of the woman accused of helping to beat her 10-year-old daughter to death is scheduled to start this week.
Sharon Carrillo, 34, faces up to life in prison for her alleged role in the killing of Marissa Kennedy nearly two years ago. Jury selection is slated to begin Tuesday at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast. Earlier this fall, her attorney, Chris MacLean of Camden, said he anticipated that it would take a couple of days to seat a jury of Waldo County residents.
Kennedy was found dead in February 2018 in the Stockton Springs condo where her family was living. Although Sharon Carrillo and her husband, Julio Carrillo, had initially told investigators the girl had suffered a fatal accident while watching a movie by herself in the basement, it didn’t take long before both admitted to police they had severely beaten her over a period of months.
An autopsy found that Kennedy died of battered child syndrome, with wounds on her body — both old and new — bearing witness to her physical suffering. Sharon and Julio Carrillo told police that they used a belt and a kitchen mop, among other tools, to beat Kennedy. The girl also was allegedly locked in a dark closet as a form of “punishment” and would scream for extended periods.
Kennedy’s death, and the child abuse death of 4-year-old Kendall Chick of Wiscasset just two months prior, caused the state to shine a spotlight on the child welfare system. After the two high-profile child deaths, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, a legislative watchdog group, released a report earlier this year that found most frontline child welfare caseworkers in Maine are overworked and regularly unable to fully meet the needs of the families they are supposed to serve.
Julio Carrillo, 52, pleaded guilty and in August was sentenced to 55 years in prison for the death of his stepdaughter. But Sharon Carrillo’s legal team has steadfastly denied that she was responsible for her daughter’s death, and claimed that she also was mentally and physically abused by her husband. Her attorneys have made the case that their client was very afraid of her husband and especially vulnerable because she has developmental disabilities.
Among the evidence submitted in the case is a photo taken from Julio Carrillo’s cellphone that allegedly shows Kennedy and Sharon Carrillo kneeling naked on the tile floor of the family’s condo, with their hands held over their heads. A Maine State Police detective testified this spring at a hearing connected to the case that the flesh on Kennedy’s knees had been worn down to the bone, perhaps because she had been forced to kneel on the floor for so long.
In January 2019, Sharon Carrillo filed a petition to annul their marriage. The couple has three surviving children, including a 1-year-old who was born while his mother was in jail. All the kids have been adopted by Julio Carrillo’s parents and now live in New York state.
Sharon Carrillo’s defense team previously has said that the state ought to drop charges against her.
“Her perspective has always been that Julio Carrillo caused the death of Marissa,” Attorney Laura Shaw of Camden said earlier this year.
But Julio Carrillo’s defense attorney, Darrick X. Banda of Augusta, has vehemently disagreed with this analysis. A few months ago, he said he expects his client will testify during his estranged wife’s trial and would continue to cooperate with state prosecutors.
In September, MacLean said that the trial may take as long as two weeks and that the defense team had compiled a list of 60 possible witnesses to call.