BELFAST — Sharon Carrillo confessed to participating in what amounted to months of torture leading to the death of her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Kennedy, prosecutors said Friday in the opening day of the murder trial for the Stockton Springs woman.

“In short, ladies and gentlemen, 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy was beaten to death over a period of months,” Assistant Attorney General Don Macomber told members of the jury. “Who beat Marissa Kennedy to death? Who is responsible for her murder? Her mother, Sharon Carrillo, and her stepfather, Julio Carrillo,” Macomber said as he pointed to the sobbing defendant.

Marissa Kennedy

Friday was the first day of what is expected to be a nearly two-week jury trial of Sharon Carrillo, who faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of depraved indifference murder in her daughter’s death.

Jurors got a glimpse at the emotional testimony ahead as they were shown the first of likely numerous images of injuries prosecutors say were repeatedly inflicted on Marissa with fists, feet, a mop handle and a belt buckle. In the coming days, the jury is expected to hear and see even more graphic evidence from the state medical examiner as he explains his determination that the girl died of “battered child syndrome” caused by extensive internal and external injuries.

Jurors also heard Friday from a special education teacher who visited the Carrillo home just five days before Marissa’s death and walked away concerned about improper medication after observing the girl was “a little unsteady” on her feet and had a large head bruise.

Marissa’s death, combined with the murder of a 4-year-old Wiscasset girl by a caretaker, revealed flaws in Maine’s child protection programs and led to a significant increases in staffing at child welfare agencies.

Sharon Carrillo’s husband, Julio Carrillo, already is serving a 55-year sentence after pleading guilty to murdering his stepdaughter. It was clear from Friday’s opening statements and early witness testimony that Julio Carrillo – whose name appears on a potential witness list – will figure heavily in the defense attorneys’ strategy against a murder conviction.

Christopher MacLean, one of Sharon Carrillo’s two defense attorneys, acknowledged the “gruesome” nature of the crimes against Marissa, warning jurors that prosecutors will show images “that will haunt you for the rest of your lives.”

But MacLean described his client as an extremely low-IQ individual easily persuaded to give false statements incriminating herself out of fear of an abusive husband. He also portrayed Julio Carrillo as “a sick sadist” who documented his abuse of both mother and daughter in photos and videos.

“I’ll tell you right now that the evidence will show Julio Carrillo killed Marissa Kennedy and that he acted alone in doing it, and that Sharon Carrillo did not participate in any of the beatings or torture of her daughter,” MacLean told the jury.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber points to Sharon Carrillo as he delivers his opening statement to the jury Friday in Waldo County Superior Court. He said, “Who beat Marissa Kennedy to death? … Her mother, Sharon Carrillo, and her stepfather, Julio Carrillo.” Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

But the defense team will have to convince jurors not to believe videotaped confessions that Sharon Carrillo gave to police. In his opening statement for the state, Macomber sought to lay the groundwork against such arguments as he portrayed Sharon Carrillo as a participant or, at a minimum, an accomplice in her daughter’s killing.

“Sharon said their punishments got out of hand,” Macomber said. “Sharon said that at the end, Marissa couldn’t walk and her speech was slurred. But Sharon, Marissa’s own mother, thought Marissa was faking so she beat her again. Sharon said she knew that Marissa needed to go to the hospital, but they didn’t take her because she was afraid that they would get in trouble.”

Following the opening statements, prosecutors devoted the first day of witness testimony to laying out the sequence of events on Feb. 25, 2018, when emergency dispatchers received a call about a 10-year-old who was unresponsive after an accident.

Christopher Maclean, attorney for Sharon Carrillo, delivers his opening statement to the jury in Waldo County Superior Court on Friday. He said, “Sharon Carrillo did not participate in any of the beatings or torture of her daughter.”  Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The first emergency responder to arrive was Stockton Springs Fire Chief Vern Thompson, who drove directly from his nearby house because he knew snowy roads would delay the ambulance traveling from farther away. Thompson testified that Julio Carrillo pointed to the first-floor bedroom where he found the 10-year-old lying on the floor.

Sharon Carrillo was sitting on a nearby mattress crying, and no one was administering CPR to the girl despite dispatchers having provided instructions over the phone.

An EMT for roughly 40 years, Thompson said he attempted to resuscitate the girl but quickly determined that “it couldn’t be done.” He testified that Marissa had a large bruise on her forehead as well purplish bruising on her abdomen that suggested to him the girl had been dead for some time because the blood was pooling internally.

As prosecutors asked Thompson about those bruises, they were displayed briefly on a large TV screen for jurors to see graphic images of those injuries taken at the scene by police.

It was Thompson who called dispatchers to tell them to send police officers to the house. Likewise, the second EMT to arrive on the scene, Denise Harriman of Stockton Springs, testified that Marissa had “a lot of bruising and she was obviously passed away.”

Cpl. Darrin Moody of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, who was the first police officer to arrive, recounted how Sharon Carrillo told him that her daughter had gone into the basement alone and that Julio Carrillo found her unresponsive.

“She also stated that Marissa was known to harm herself, pinching herself and pulling her own hair,” Moody said.

Sharon Carrillo wipes tears from her eyes as her attorney Christopher MacLean delivers his opening statement to the jury in Waldo County Superior Court on Friday. She will face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of depraved indifference murder. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Moody was one of several people who testified Friday that either Julio or Sharon Carrillo had told them that Marissa was violent toward herself or others in the family. But those stories didn’t match with what staff at Searsport Elementary saw of the young girl during her spotty attendance at the school.

“She was quiet, she was polite, she was cooperative and did the things that I asked her to do,” said Katherine Legere, Marissa’s fifth-grade teacher. “She got along with her peers. She liked to read – she especially liked to read – and had joined the librarian’s book club.”

Searsport Elementary School Principal Larry Clement testified that Marissa missed 37 days of school during the first trimester that extends from August to mid-November. In the second trimester, she had already missed 12 days by Jan. 3, when the school sent a letter to the Carrillos expressing concern about the absences.

Clement said he never saw Marissa at school after that letter, meaning she was absent for a total of 75 days before her death on Feb. 25.

Five days earlier, special education teacher June Baird with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Development Services program visited the Carrillo home with a colleague to determine whether Marissa’s two younger siblings could qualify for the assistance.

In a videotaped deposition broadcast for the jury, Baird testified that she was there to evaluate the development of the two youngest children, who were both under age 3, and not to evaluate Marissa.

“I had no concerns about either parents’ parenting,” Baird said. “The way that they answered questions seemed typical and non-concerning.”

But Baird said she noted how Marissa sat “very contained, not moving a lot” on a couch away from the others as the group talked.

Baird also noticed that Marissa had a large bruise on her face, appeared “a little unsteady” on her feet and had badly chapped lips, as did her mother. Julio Carrillo also told the group – in front of both Sharon Carrillo and Marissa – that both his wife and his stepdaughter were mentally ill.

“I was concerned that maybe they were getting medication wrong, which people do and can cause physical things like that,” Baird said. “It was also February, so I don’t know. But I mentally noted it and then shared that with the team.”

The prosecution will resume its case on Monday.

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