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Update: Read the latest story from Sharon Carrillo’s murder trial here.
BELFAST, Maine — The case manager who was likely the last social worker to see Marissa Kennedy alive at her home testified on Monday that she had seen bruises on the girl in the days leading up to her death, but had not documented any domestic violence against the mother who’s now on trial for her role in Kennedy’s murder.
Sue Webber, who worked for Home Counselors Inc., an agency that provides home-based family services, visited the Carrillos on Feb. 23, 2018, just days before Kennedy was found dead in the Stockton Springs condo where the family was living. She testified for about two hours during Sharon Carrillo’s murder trial in the death of her 10-year-old daughter, and Webber told the court that on her last visit she was ushered into the basement to meet with Sharon Carrillo; her husband, Julio Carrillo; and Kennedy. She noticed the girl had a small bruise on her temple and that she fell asleep slumped on her pregnant mother’s belly.
“I asked her about the bruises and what happened, and she did not answer me,” Webber said, adding that she was with the family for about an hour. “When I was there, [Kennedy] was very quiet. Her eyes were opening and closing. She did not talk at all.”
Webber told the court she tried to lighten the mood in the home by making gentle jokes to Sharon Carrillo about how the girl might be kicked by her unborn sibling, but that it didn’t seem to work.
“Did the defendant respond when you tried to make light of the moment?” Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea asked.
“No,” Webber responded.
Defense attorneys have maintained that Carrillo, like her daughter, was a victim of Julio Carrillo and that her intellectual disability made her particularly vulnerable and unable to seek outside help. Julio Carrillo, 52, will spend 55 years in prison for the beating death of his stepdaughter.
Webber told Zainea that she had spoken privately to Sharon Carrillo about whether there was domestic violence in her marriage, and was told there was not.
“Did she ever tell you she didn’t understand what you were asking of her?” Zainea asked.
She hadn’t, Webber said.
But Carillo’s defense attorney, Chris MacLean, suggested that Webber shouldn’t have been satisfied with Carrillo’s answer.
“Some of the information you had available was that there were multiple police reports of fighting in the home … where Julio Carrillo is reported to be the aggressor, but he always tells police that Sharon’s mental issues are the cause,” MacLean said.
“I remember hearing about alleged domestic violence,” Webber responded.
He then asked her if she was aware that Julio Carrillo did most of the speaking for the entire family and that he often didn’t allow Sharon Carrillo and Kennedy to speak for themselves.
“Who was the person providing the bulk of information to you?” MacLean asked Webber.
“Julio Carrillo,” she responded.
MacLean said Webber hadn’t wanted to talk with defense attorneys in the case, and that she had attempted to dodge efforts to serve her with a subpoena. When she finally was served, MacLean said a man with Webber gave the investigator the middle finger.
“I declined to talk to you,” Webber said at one point during cross-examination.
In court, though, she had to answer his questions. Webber said her agency was a nonprofit that did contract case management work to help reduce risk to children, and that she had worked with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for 19 years.
MacLean said that Julio Carrillo often talked about his wife’s “craziness,” but asked the social worker if she had done enough digging into what was really going on in the family.
“Did you ever, as you sit here today, do you recall looking at a single document that corroborates Julio’s description of Sharon’s craziness?” he asked Webber.
“I don’t recall,” Webber replied.
“You described Sharon as ‘sad and subdued,’” he continued, saying that the social worker’s descriptions of Julio Carrillo were different. “You described him as ‘very charming.’”
Webber took umbrage, saying that she did not believe she used the adverb “very.”
MacLean asked if the social worker had taken steps to verify Julio Carrillo’s claims about his family, including statements that Kennedy was harming herself; that Sharon Carrillo’s behavior was, in fact, so bad that he had called the police; and that she had threatened to take a whole bottle of medication and in response he had called a crisis line and her obstetrician. Webber told him she hadn’t fact-checked his information.
“You were accepting at face value what Julio Carrillo was telling you?” the attorney said, adding that in her visit notes she had written that the children seemed safe because Julio Carrillo had taken the necessary steps for their safety. “You did so up until the date you found out Marissa was dead?”
“Yes, I guess so,” Webber responded.