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BELFAST, Maine — Sharon Carrillo admitted to helping to beat her daughter, 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy, to death in February 2018.
Despite that, her attorney Chris MacLean argued in court on Thursday, there is no evidence — other than her own words and those of her estranged husband, Julio Carrillo — that she did what she said she did. Sharon Carrillo is being tried for the murder of her 10-year-old daughter and after roughly four days of testimony from witnesses called by state prosecutors, the defense began to make its case, calling its first witnesses: neighbors who lived close to the family in both Bangor and Stockton Springs.
Even before the prosecution rested its case, the attorney pointed out during the cross-examination of Maine State Police Detective Jason Andrews that the physical evidence so far presented in the trial does not help prove that Sharon Carrillo killed her daughter. Not the blue mop that had been used to beat Kennedy. Not the disturbing photos and videos confiscated from the family’s cell phones. Not the bloodied pajamas the girl had been wearing.
“You heard the medical examiner testify that the medical examination didn’t show any information about who killed Marissa Kennedy,” MacLean said. “It tells us that she died an awful, gruesome, horrible death, but not who did it.”
Carrillo’s attorneys have maintained their client was a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, and that her very low intelligence and intellectual disability made her both gullible and vulnerable. In court on Thursday, MacLean suggested that the detectives led her to confess to things she did not do — namely, the detailed abuse of her daughter.
“People with mental disabilities are more susceptible to false confessions,” he said.
MacLean said that for the first two hours police interviewed Sharon Carrillo, she stuck to the story that Kennedy had somehow fatally injured herself in the basement, a narrative his client told police she and her husband had invented. Then, the detectives separately interviewed Julio Carrillo and told him that Sharon Carrillo had “spilled the beans,” MacLean said, implicating her husband in Kennedy’s death. In response, Julio Carrillo implicated his wife.
When the detectives talked to her a second time, they came armed with information that Julio Carrillo had provided them, the attorney said, and worked to get Sharon Carrillo to admit she had done what her husband said she did.
“What Detective [Scott] Quintero tried to do is endorse the narrative that Julio Carrillo gave them,” MacLean said.
But Andrews disagreed, saying that the detective was simply asking Sharon Carrillo “to be honest.” Not so, the attorney countered.
“He’s saying Julio is being honest … and when [Sharon] said no, [the detective] told her she was lying. Eventually, she starts to agree with that narrative,” MacLean said.
But Andrews wasn’t having it.
“Eventually, she’s honest,” he said. “Two people who were alone with that child did something to that child.”
For his part, MacLean suggested that when Sharon Carrillo finally told police that she had done things like lock Kennedy in the closet, stood on the back of her legs, beat her daughter with a belt and more, she did it because authorities were telling her to.
“It was only when you took a confrontational tone saying that she needed to be honest that she agreed with you,” the attorney said.
Again, the detective pushed back against that conclusion.
“Another term I’d use would be that I called her bluff,” he said.
The first witnesses called by the defense were a couple who lived close to the Carrillos in Stockton Springs from August or September of 2017 until the murder happened in February. Janice Capano told the court she had witnessed a disturbing incident in the driveway when Sharon Carrillo was trying to put the baby in the car seat and Julio Carrillo, who was driving, stepped on the gas and hit her with the car doors.
“He did it again, and he did it again. He just kind of laughed,” Capano said. “It was an uncomfortable situation.”
In cross-examination, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea asked the neighbor if she had observed any injuries to Sharon Carrillo. The answer was no. The prosecutor also asked if Sharon Carrillo, who Capano said sometimes came to the house to borrow money, food and, once, Christmas wrapping paper, had ever talked about her relationship with her husband or what was happening to Kennedy.
“No,” Capano replied.
Another neighbor had the apartment directly below the Carrillos when they lived on Main Street in Bangor before relocating to Stockton Springs. Jennifer Engstrom testified that she had heard “constant fighting, slamming, throwing stuff, kids crying, to the point where my own daughter couldn’t even sleep in her bedroom,” and a woman sobbing in the bathroom.
She said she heard the man in the apartment calling a woman names and tell her “a few times” that he wanted to kill her.
“I heard her state she wanted to kill him as well,” Engstrom said.
A couple of times, she said she saw Julio Carrillo appear to intentionally trip his wife and cause her to fall down when she was holding a baby or bringing in groceries.
Under cross-examination, Engstrom said she also heard Sharon Carrillo accuse her husband of cheating on her and telling him that if he did, she would kill him.
“When you would see Sharon and Marissa without Julio, would Sharon ever ask you for any help?” Zainea asked.
“No ma’am,” Engstrom replied.