BELFAST, Maine — Julio Carrillo was a monster, according to testimony heard over the eight days of his estranged wife’s murder trial.
But Julio Carrillo isn’t the one who is on trial.
And whether the jury decides to convict or acquit Sharon Carrillo for the murder of her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Kennedy, likely will rest on which version of the defendant it finds most compelling: the prosecution’s portrayal of her as an active participant in the girl’s abuse and torture, or the defense’s depiction of her as a victim of her husband’s domestic violence and extreme control.
After the defense rested its case Tuesday, jurors heard Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea and defense attorney Chris MacLean deliver their closing arguments for nearly two hours. Zainea told the jurors that they are there to decide if the state has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Sharon Carrillo is guilty of her daughter’s murder.
“Days before her death this little girl knew she was dying — and so did her mother,” the prosecutor argued, adding that Sharon Carrillo still did not seek help. “She continued to beat Marissa because she felt like she was faking. Marissa was far from faking. Marissa’s speech became slurred and she was no longer able to walk. In the months of constant, perpetual assaults that caused fear and that rush of adrenaline, Marissa’s heart could no longer take it, and she died on Feb. 25, 2018.”
Zainea went on to say that jurors must listen to the evidence documented in Sharon Carrillo’s hours of interviews and interrogations with police detectives, during which she made incriminating statements and, ultimately, confessions about her role in Marissa Kennedy’s death. The prosecutor said that Sharon Carrillo initially stuck to a fabricated story about the death because she didn’t want to get in trouble, not because she was afraid of her husband.
Even if she was a victim of domestic violence, Zainea said, Sharon Carrillo had multiple opportunities to protect her daughter, rather than aiding and abetting her death but failed to do so. The family was in contact with neighbors, school officials, police officers and social workers, doctors, health care workers and others, but Sharon Carrillo never told them what was really going on.
The mother also confessed to detectives that she was part of the abuse, Zainea said.
“You don’t need an expert to tell you that [an innocent person] would never say, and I quote, ‘I should have stopped. I should have stopped.’ Nor does your common sense tell you that a person not involved in her daughter’s death would say, ‘I should have been 100 percent more of a mother and just walked away,’” she said, before quoting from the poet Maya Angelou. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
But all the facts the state laid out could be seen in a very different light, MacLean said. The defense described Sharon Carrillo as a victim of domestic violence just as surely as Marissa Kennedy was a victim of child abuse, and that Julio Carrillo hijacked the narratives of both their lives.
“Julio Carrillo took their voices away. They couldn’t even speak. They were silent,” MacLean said. “Every witness talked about how Sharon Carrillo was walking around with her head down and a sad, blank look on her face. Marissa Kennedy was described in exactly the same way. He is a monstrous abuser and took their voices away … everything about them as a human being was stolen by Julio Carrillo.”
MacLean said that neither Sharon Carrillo nor Marissa Kennedy could say “a single thing” without permission from Julio Carrillo, and that the lies he told — that Sharon Carrillo had mental illness, that Marissa Kennedy was harming herself — were designed to cover up his own abuse. The only evidence of Sharon Carrillo’s guilt is her confession, he said, and reminded jurors that two experts testified that it may have been a false one.
“She was agreeing with the detectives who were feeding her the information. ‘Julio Carrillo told us this. Julio Carrillo was 100 percent honest with us.’ Everything she ended up saying ‘yes’ to was part of the fiction that Julio Carrillo invented,” he said.
And in response to a suggestion from prosecutors that Sharon Carrillo was an accomplice to the crime, MacLean showed the jurors the photograph depicting Kennedy, naked, kneeling on the tile floor with her mother, naked, kneeling on the floor behind her.
“For the love of God, ladies and gentlemen — does that look like an accomplice to you?” he asked. “Julio Carrillo was acting alone in torturing and killing that little girl.”
The attorney also said that jurors would get to look at some text messages that were extricated from phones found in the Stockton Springs condo, including one that was dated Feb. 21. In it, Julio Carrillo forecasted Kennedy’s death four days before it happened, MacLean said, suggesting that what happened to the girl was not an accident but premeditated murder.
“He knew she was going to the grave. You probably will never see anything more chilling than that at any time in your lives,” he said. “Sharon Carrillo might be a terrible mother. She might be a person who should never have children of her own. But none of that makes her guilty of murder.”
Zainea, in response, read to the jury from Sharon Carrillo’s confession and told them that despite MacLean’s claims that his client was also a victim of abuse, photographs from the time of Kennedy’s death show that while the girl’s body was covered in bruises, her mother appeared fine.
“A picture is worth a thousand words, and those photographs show beyond reasonable doubt that Sharon Carrillo is no victim,” Zainea said.