On the 25th of February, 2018, first responders were alerted to a condominium at 7 Harbor View Drive in Stockton Springs, Maine, United States. The caller said that there was an unresponsive child. When first responders arrived at the scene, the little girl was already deceased. She was identified as 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy. It was evident that she had been the victim of prolonged abuse and an investigation was immediately launched.1
Marissa’s cause of death would be battered child syndrome and injuries listed included bleeding in the brain, a lacerated liver and multiple old injuries.
Her mother, Sharon Carrillo, and her stepfather, Julio Carrillo, were arrested. The family had been staying at the condominium which was owned by Sharon’s parents. Marissa’s two siblings, ages 1 and 2, were taken into custody by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. At the time of Marissa’s death, Julio had been in the process of attempting to adopt her.2
Court documents would reveal that Marissa had suffered months of physical abuse at the hands of Sharon and Julio. She had been forced to kneel on kitchen tiles and raise her hands above her head while she was repeatedly hit with a belt in the abdomen and ribs. Around two weeks before Marissa died, the weapon was switched out for a metal mop. Marissa had been hit with such force that the metal mop had snapped in half. When police had arrived at the home, the broken metal mop was still in the room where Marissa had died. In addition to the brutal beatings, Marissa would be locked in a dark closet as a form of “punishment” and would scream and cry for hours.
After one particularly violent beating on the 22nd of 23rd of February, Marissa said to Sharon: “I feel like I’m dying.” Shortly thereafter, she stopped moving and her speech became slurred. Neither Sharon nor Julio sought out medical assistance. In fact, they believed that Marissa had been pretending so they unleashed another attack on her.
When it became evident that Marissa was not feigning injury and had perished from her injuries, Sharon and Julio decided to hatch a scheme. They staged the basement and made it appear as though Marissa had fallen accidentally. They called 911 and claimed that he had found Marissa in the basement beside the furnace, bleeding from her mouth and unresponsive. He had claimed that Marissa was playing in the basement on her own for several hours and when he went down to check on her, he found her lifeless on the floor.
Both Sharon and Julio had stuck to this version of events following their arrest. Sharon even tried to claim that Marissa was often violent towards herself as well as towards other members of the family. However, investigators revealed that no blood had been found in the basement of the home. In fact, they had found blood on and around a chair in the kitchen, behind a toilet and in Marissa’s bed. Furthermore, there was bruising to Marissa’s stomach and swelling above her eye.
After being presented with the evidence against them, both Sharon and Julio admitted that they had physically disciplined Marissa before eventually admitting that they had abused her and then attempted to cover up her murder as an accident. Julio had said to investigators that he was worried that Sharon would attempt to place all of the blame on him.
According to neighbours of the family, they often heard the sounds of arguments emanating from the home. On the 24th of February, a number of neighbours heard a commotion coming from inside the home before abruptly stopping at around 4PM. The following day, things at the home were unnaturally quiet.
Ultimately, Julio would plead guilty to the murder of Marissa and would be sentenced to 55 years in prison. Sharon, however, pleaded not guilty and was ordered to stand trial on the murder charge.
During the opening statements of the murder trial, Assistant Attorney General Don Macomber said: “In short, ladies and gentleman, 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy was beaten to death over a period of months. Who beat Marissa Kennedy to death? Who is responsible for her murder? Her mother, Sharon Carrillo, her stepfather, Julio Carrillo.” Sharon’s defence lawyer, Christopher MacLean, acknowledged that the case was “gruesome” but contended that Sharon had an extremely low IQ and was easily persuaded to give false statements to incriminate herself out of fear of Julio. It was evident that Sharon’s defence were going to try and place the blame directly on Julio.
The jury would be shown graphic photographs of the injuries that had been inflicted on Marissa while they were informed she had been beaten with fists, feet, a metal mop and a belt. They would also hear from a special education teacher who had visited the family five days before Marissa died. She testified that she noticed that Marissa was unsteady on her feet and had a large bruise to her head.
Katherine Legree, Marissa’s fifth-grade teacher would testify and discount Sharon’s claims that Marissa was a violent child. She said that Marissa was quiet and polite and that she always cooperated with the things that were asked of her. She said: “She got along with her peers. She liked to read – she especially liked to read – and had joined the librarian’s book club.”3
It would be revealed that there were a number of chances for Marissa to be saved. Her school, health care providers, neighbours, local police and state child protective services had been made aware that something was wrong with the family. However, nobody ever intervened. Marissa had missed months of school, had been to the emergency room on numerous occasions and a neighbour had even witnessed her being hit. All of these incidents had been reported in Marissa’s Department of Health and Human Services file yet nothing was ever done to intervene.4
A videotaped confession from Sharon would also be presented to the jury. During the confession, Sharon had said: “I didn’t mean to hurt her, to kill her. I should have stopped.” When asked why she hadn’t stopped, she replied: “I don’t know…” Sharon had admitted to hitting Marissa with a belt around 15 times on each side and karate chopping her on the ribs while Julio kicked her in the torso.5
Sharon’s defence team would suggest that Sharon herself was the victim of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Julio. Graphic photographs would be found on Julio’s phone of Sharon and Marissa kneeling naked on a tile floor with their arms up. Sharon said that Julio would force her to do this on several occasions. In other videos, Sharon was crying and begging Julio to leave her alone.6
The jury would reject the defence’s argument and found Sharon Carrillo guilty of depraved indifference murder. She was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
- Bangor Daily News, 26 February, 2018 – “Parents Charged in Death of 10-Year-Old Stockton Springs Girl”
- Bangor Daily News, 27 February, 2018 – “Maine Girl, 10, Allegedly Killed by Parents”
- Portland Press, 6 December, 2019 – “Punishments Got Out of Hand”
- Portland Press, 25 February, 2020 – “Report on Abuse of Marissa Kennedy Leaves Much Still Unknown”
- Mail Online, 12 December, 2019 – “I Should Have Stopped”
- Bangor Daily News, 11 December, 2019 – “Recordings Show Marissa Kennedy Tried to Fight Off Her Abusive Stepfather”