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BELFAST, Maine — The last few days of Marissa Kennedy’s life were unspeakably difficult, with no relief from the continual beatings that had been inflicted on the 10-year-old for about three months. Her body failing, she could no longer walk or talk — or even go to the bathroom by herself. But her mother and stepfather thought she was faking, and still hit her with a belt.
And when a social worker paid the family a visit about 48 hours before Kennedy died, Sharon Carrillo and husband Julio Carrillo staged a scene so that the visitor would believe the situation in the home to be normal.
They did not want to get in trouble.
That’s what Sharon Carrillo told Maine State Police detectives Jason Andrews and Scott Quintero the night of the girl’s February 2018 death at the family’s home in Stockton Springs, according to an audio recording and a videotaped walk-through of the house that were played for jurors on Tuesday during the third day of Sharon Carrillo’s trial for the murder of her daughter.
This confession contradicted Sharon Carrillo’s initial statements that Kennedy went down to the basement to watch the movie “Despicable Me” and somehow, perhaps intentionally, fatally injured herself.
“If you could say anything to her right now, if you could bring her back to life, what would you say?” detectives asked Sharon Carrillo, according to the recordings played for jurors.
“I would hug her. Squeeze her. Apologize to her,” Sharon Carrillo responded.
“Apologize for what?” the detectives asked.
“For what I did to her,” the woman answered, her voice full of tears.
The taped confession played for the jurors on Tuesday was Sharon Carrillo’s second police interview and occurred immediately after police allegedly heard a confession from Julio Carrillo, Kennedy’s stepfather. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison earlier this year for the role in Kennedy’s death.
Sharon Carrillo’s defense attorneys maintain that their client, like her daughter, was a victim of domestic violence at Julio Carrillo’s hands. They have argued that she was so afraid of her husband, and so vulnerable because of her intellectual disabilities, that the compromising statements she made that night to police should not be taken at face value.
In the taped confession, jurors heard Sharon Carrillo initially continue to deny that she had hurt her daughter, even after detectives told her that her husband had been “totally upfront” and “told us everything.”
“Can you tell me why you guys chose to punish her the way you did?” a detective asked her. “Like, why did you use the belt?”
“I didn’t use the belt,” she told them. “I don’t do that to my kids. I never did that to her.”
But the detectives continued to push, and it didn’t take long before her story — and the mostly calm facade she had presented earlier in the night — cracked.
“So this punishing thing, is it the kind of thing that got out of hand?” detectives asked. “Or were you doing it because you thought it might work.”
“It just got out of hand,” Sharon Carrillo said, almost inaudibly.
Over the next half hour or so, detectives pieced together a very different narrative of what happened to Kennedy. Sharon Carrillo, who often cried so hard in the audiotape she was difficult to understand, said that her oldest daughter’s behavior had worsened when her younger two children were born.
“She thinks we stopped paying attention to her,” Sharon Carrillo said.
The two younger children, plus a baby born to Sharon Carrillo while she was in jail, have been adopted by Julio Carrillo’s parents and are living out of state.
In the fall of 2017, Kennedy had stayed for a time at Sweetser, a residential facility in Belfast for children with behavioral and mental health issues. When she came home, things went downhill fast, the detectives suggested and her mother confirmed.
“So after she got back from Sweetser, my understanding is that two or three times a day, you’d put her on her knees,” one of the detectives said. “Whip her with a belt. Smacking in the ribs would occur. The punching in the head, that would happen all the time, yes? … I know it’s difficult, but let’s just get it over with. Did you punch her with your right hand or your left hand?”
“Right,” Sharon Carrillo responded.
“Is that because you didn’t have rings on that hand?” he asked.
“No. Because I’m a rightie,” she replied.
Detectives asked Sharon Carrillo if her daughter had written in a book that “she hated you.” Her mother confirmed this, adding that her daughter wanted to live with her grandparents and wanted Sharon Carrillo’s stepmother “to be her mom instead of me.”
It was not the only time the stepmother, who owned the Stockton Springs condo with Sharon Carillo’s father, came up in the conversation. Carrillo was unwavering to detectives in her belief that her stepmother had been sending text messages directing Sharon and Julio Carrillo to punish Kennedy, instructing them to do things like step on the back of the girl’s calves when she was kneeling on the tiled kitchen floor.
Detectives were incredulous.
“So because of the lady that your dad got married to and sent text messages, you did those things to your daughter?” one asked.
Yes, Sharon Carrillo told them.
“I shouldn’t have … but she said since you guys are living in our house” they had to, she said.
As Kennedy’s final days drained away, the family contended with a visit from social worker and case manager Sue Webber. In both the audio confession and the videotaped walk through of the house, Sharon Carrillo painted a grim picture of the end of her daughter’s life.
“How did you hide the damage that you’d done?” a detective asked.
Sharon Carrillo said that Kennedy’s clothes helped cover her injuries. As well, Julio Carrillo helped her walk downstairs to the basement to meet with Webber, because left to herself, she would have stumbled, her mother said. They sat the girl on a couch next to her mother so that she would slump against her if she fell asleep.
The following day, Saturday, Kennedy was unable to talk or walk at all. Still, Julio Carrillo came to her to read aloud a note written by Sharon Carrillo.
“To whom it may concern,” it began. “I can no longer take care of [Marissa Kennedy]. She hurts herself, lies and disrespects me.”
“What would make him read her that, on a day she wasn’t able to stand or walk?” One of the detectives asked.
Sharon Carrillo had an answer for that.
“[To show] how easy it is to sign [her] over to the state, if she didn’t straighten up,” she said.