BELFAST — Defense attorneys for Sharon Carrillo continued to portray her estranged husband as a violent and controlling figure who told co-workers that his stepdaughter, 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy, had died months before she actually succumbed to abuse-related injuries.

Witnesses testifying Monday during Sharon Carrillo’s murder trial shed additional light on the abusive and oppressive atmosphere surrounding Marissa in the final year and a half of her life. With the trial likely entering its final days, Carrillo’s attorneys sought to cast their client as another victim of husband Julio Carrillo’s aggression rather than a participant in her daughter’s death.

Marissa Kennedy

The testimony once again highlighted how Marissa fell through the cracks of a flawed child protection system despite multiple reports to police and social services agencies as well as Marissa’s numerous interactions with health or medical professionals.

“I believed the little girl was in danger,” Jill Reid, a housekeeper in the Carrillos’ Bangor apartment building, said in explaining her decision to contact the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “I always saw her sneakers, and I knew she wasn’t going to school. And I thought that was odd.”

It was unclear Thursday afternoon whether jurors will hear more about DHHS records or about text messages that Carrillo’s attorneys say support their version of events. Superior Court Justice Robert Murray sent jurors home early on Monday as state prosecutors and Carrillo’s attorneys argued over the admissibility of those records.

Marissa died at the family’s Stockton Springs condominium in February 2018 after what the state’s chief medical examiner determined was months of severe physical abuse. Julio Carrillo already is serving a 55-year sentence after pleading guilty to murder. Sharon Carrillo faces 25 years to life if convicted of similar charges.

Jurors have heard or watched hours of police interviews in which Sharon Carrillo acknowledged participating in severely beating her daughter. Carrillo’s attorneys contend those are false confessions from a traumatized victim whose anxiety and low intellect made her susceptible to persuasion by her abusive husband and police interrogators.

Daniel Whitney, a former neighbor in Bangor, testified hearing Julio Carrillo shout that “I’m going to cut you into little pieces and send you to the hospital.” In videotaped testimony played for jurors, Whitney said he never witnessed Julio Carrillo physically abuse his wife or stepdaughter, but that he and his wife frequently heard him yelling.

“There were so many incidents, after a while it was just common,” Whitney said. “It was terrible.”

In some of the more bizarre moments of the horrific trial, jurors heard Monday how Julio Carrillo allegedly told at least two co-workers at Tozier’s Market in Searsport that Marissa had died in the fall of 2017, months before her actual death in February 2018. Last week, they heard similar testimony from co-workers at Ocean State Job Lot in Belfast, where Julio Carrillo worked after Tozier’s.

One co-worker, Dillan Moody, testified that Julio Carrillo told him Marissa died after beating her head against the wall. Carrillo told store manager Lori Brassbridge “on numerous occasions” that Marissa was having behavioral issues – including harming herself – and that she eventually died.

“We were all sympathetic to him,” Brassbridge said. “The store got a bunch of food together for him and some of us that worked there put some money together to help the family out. We were kind of grieving with him for him grieving his child.”

Moody and Brassbridge said they also observed Sharon Carrillo hanging around for hours inside or outside of the store with her two youngest children, apparently waiting for her husband to finish working.

Sharon Carrillo enters Waldo County Superior Court on Dec. 6, the opening day of her trial. In court Monday, her legal team sought to cast her as a victim of her husband’s aggression. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“She would wander around the store for hours … she would purchase one or two items, but it would take her a couple or three hours to do so,” Brassbridge said. “She’d just walk up and down the aisles with her kids in the cart.”

In the final days of her life, Marissa was so badly injured from months abuse that she had lost her ability to walk or speak. After finally calling 911, Julio and Sharon Carrillo told first responders and police that Marissa had harmed herself accidentally or intentionally while alone in their basement.

Marissa’s bruised and broken body told police and the medical examiner a completely different story. But Julio and Sharon Carrillo had been alleging for well over a year by that point that Marissa was acting out violently toward herself and other members of the family.

Marissa spent more than a month at Acadia Hospital in Bangor, as well as at a Belfast “crisis stabilization unit” for children.

Several of the medical and health professionals who treated Marissa at those facilities and during the months in between have now testified that they never saw any of the behavioral problems alleged by her stepfather.

“She was kind, creative – just a sweet, sweet little girl,” said Daniella MacLoud, a licensed clinical counselor at the Belfast facility run by Sweetser.

But Marissa always denied any suggestions of physical abuse at home. And while none of the health or medical professionals who has testified so far ever saw signs of physical abuse, the police interviews with Sharon Carrillo suggest the parents stopped taking their daughter to the doctor after the abuse became more severe.

Dr. Amy Barrett, a pediatrician who saw Marissa after several emergency room visits in Bangor because of alleged behavioral issues, said she contacted DHHS “on a number of occasions.” At first, Barrett said she was concerned about “medical neglect” of Marissa, but also that DHHS was not providing any in-home services to help address the alleged behavioral issues.

Barrett testified that she also grew concerned over time that Marissa’s parents were falsely claiming she missed school because of doctor’s appointments and was falling asleep in class because of medication.

“The pattern that emerged was it appeared that all of her difficulties were occurring at home,” Barrett said. “In other settings, she was not having behavioral issues. All of the concerns were raised by her family and not by the other adults that she was around.”

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