Former neighbors of the couple accused in the brutal slaying of the woman’s 10-year-old daughter in Stockton Springs say they routinely heard loud fighting and yelling in the family’s apartment in Bangor.
An employee in the building contacted the state Department of Health and Human Services to report potential abuse, one neighbor said. Others remembered frequent police visits to the apartment in response to 911 calls about shouting that could be heard through the walls.
Marissa Kennedy died Sunday after months of daily beatings by her mother, Sharon Carrillo, 33, and Julio Carrillo, 51, the girl’s stepfather, according to a police affidavit filed in Belfast District Court on Monday.
The Carrillos each face one count of depraved indifference murder. The couple appeared in Waldo County Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon as Maine State Police continue to investigate what they said was a case of prolonged and severe abuse. Justice Robert Murray set bail Wednesday at $500,000 each.
In court, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said this ranks among the most serious cases of depraved indifference murder he has encountered.
“What she was subjected to can only be described as torture,” Macomber said during the brief hearing held in Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast. “Multiple times a day, every day for months.”
Neither defendant spoke other than to say they understood their rights. Sharon Carrillo wept during her hearing.
It is not clear how the couple were able to carry out the prolonged abuse without intervention from police, school officials or state protective services workers.
School and state officials all said they could not comment on the matter. Police provided only limited information about calls to the homes in Bangor and Stockton Springs. One call to the family’s home in Bangor last June was for a “juvenile runaway,” although police did not provide any information about how the call was resolved.
“Someone dropped the ball here,” said Dan Whitney, 68, who lived near the couple in Bangor. “That little girl shouldn’t be dead right now. The thing of it is, you’re encouraged to call when something bad is happening, but it’s really discouraging when you do call and nothing happens.”
Whitney said he saw police go to the Carrillo apartment on Main Street in Bangor at least a half-dozen times, but he never saw anyone arrested. He said Julio Carrillo’s apparent abuse toward his wife began almost immediately after they moved in around August 2016. They lived in Bangor for about a year. Whitney said his own wife and other neighbors called police when they could hear the man beating and berating Sharon Carrillo.
“About a week or so after they moved in, (Julio) was beating the hell out of his wife, and the neighbor went down and kicked in the door,” he said.
On another occasion, Whitney said he was smoking a cigarette outside when a neighbor approached him because he had just witnessed a grown man punch a little girl with a closed fist. Whitney said it was Carrillo, and watched as the neighbor called 911.
Whitney said he heard Marissa calling out sometimes, but he could not recall if the cries were for help or for something else.
“She’d say, ‘Daddy, Daddy,’” Whitney recalled.
The building’s regular cleaner called DHHS because she was concerned about abuse, Whitney said. He also said he once let a Bangor truancy officer into the building. The officer was headed for Unit 3, the Carrillos’ apartment.
A spokeswoman for DHHS has refused to say whether child protective services had contact with the family, citing confidentiality laws that protect such information from public disclosure.
The family moved to Stockton Springs last summer and later enrolled Marissa in Regional School Unit 20, which serves Searsport and Stockton Springs. She stopped attending in November, according to Maine State Police Spokesman Steve McCausland.
The school district’s policy calls for notifying DHHS about extended, unexplained absences, although it’s not clear what school officials were told about Marissa and how they responded in this case.
Searsport High School Principal Marianne DeRaps said Wednesday the district could not comment on the girl’s case because of privacy laws. Grief counselors had been sent to the Searsport Elementary School, DeRaps said.
“This news has been heart-wrenching for our community, staff and students,” RSU 20 said in a statement.
The Waldo County Sheriff’s Office said police visited the home in Stockton Springs at least twice because of 911 hangups coming from the home.
The state police responded to a hangup call in October, but it’s not clear how that was resolved, according to a dispatcher for the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department.
A sheriff’s deputy visited the home about one month before Marissa’s death after a police dispatcher received a 911 hangup from the home at 12:40 a.m. on Jan. 24.
The deputy went to the residence and knocked on the door to see if there was an emergency. Julio Carrillo answered the door and told the deputy he was trying to call his mother-in-law and misdialed, the sheriff’s office said.
A man who lived near the family in Stockton Springs said the news has horrified neighbors.
“I don’t believe this happened, and it’s disturbing to think someone would kill a little girl, let alone your own daughter,” said Irving Williams, who lives not far from the family’s condo.
Bangor police responded to their apartment there six times from December 2016 through mid-June 2017, according to department records. The nature of the calls included “mental problem,” “citizen dispute” and “welfare check.” The final call at that apartment, in June, says only “juvenile runaway,” apparently referring to Marissa.
No further information on the calls was available Wednesday.
Ethan Miele lived in the apartment above the family in Bangor.
“I called the police at least twice,” Miele told News Center Maine. “What more can you do?”
Miele said his roommate kicked in the couple’s apartment door at one point because of how loud the beatings were. “He talked to the guy and he said, ‘Oh, we were just having a verbal disagreement,’” Miele said.
In interactions outside the home, Julio was pleasant and kind to his neighbors, said Orianna Green, 20, whose apartment shared a wall with the Carrillo’s old unit. “He seemed like he was trying to keep it all together,” Green said.
But through their bathroom wall, she heard a different side of him.
“It was always Julio yelling at Sharon,” Green said. “He’d yell to who I assume was Sharon, ‘You’re so worthless, you’re useless.’”
Green said she never personally called police because every time she and her boyfriend considered it, someone else already had dialed 911.
In Green’s passing interactions with her, Sharon Carrillo seemed beat-down and avoided eye contact, Green said. “She looked like she was in distress.”
The Office of the State Chief Medical Examiner performed an autopsy and determined that Marissa died of battered child syndrome, and had recently suffered a subdural hematoma, a lacerated liver and showed signs of multiple old injuries that were caused by acute and chronic abuse.
While they initially denied harming the girl, the couple confessed to the beatings during police interviews, court documents show. They also described how they staged a scene inside their Stockton Springs condo to make it appear as though Marissa’s death was the result of an accident, according to the documents.
They described how they forced her to kneel on a tile floor and hold her hands above her head while they whipped her between 10 and 15 times with a leather belt or hit her with their hands. The parents said they chose the tile of the kitchen floor, rather than a carpeted or wooden surface, so it would hurt more.
In one instance, Julio Carrillo broke a metal mop handle across Marissa’s ribs, the couple told police.
Sometimes the parents would lock Marissa in a darkened closet for extended periods. The girl screamed the whole time she was being punished, Sharon Carrillo said, according to the filing.
The beatings continued from about October until Thursday or Friday, when Marissa could no longer walk or speak without slurring her words, police said.
The Carrillos called 911 Sunday after the girl was unresponsive.
The Stockton Springs condominium is owned by Sharon Carrillo’s parents, state police said. Attempts to reach them Wednesday were unsuccessful.
The Carrillos’ two other children – ages 1 and 2 – were taken into custody by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, state police spokesman Steve McCausland said.
Neither of the children, a boy and a girl, showed signs of physical abuse, McCausland said. It was not clear why the parents singled out Marissa or what rationale they gave for punishing her so severely.
Macomber, the assistant attorney general, said that, if convicted, the couple could face life sentences in prison. He asked that a mental examination of Sharon Carrillo be conducted in the event that the defense later raises the question of her state of mind. The judge said that motion and any others could be heard at the pair’s next court hearing April 30.
Sharon Carrillo is represented by attorney Christopher MacLean of Camden. Julio Carrillo is represented by attorney Steven Peterson of Rockport. Both attorneys can argue for a different bail once they have reviewed the evidence collected by the Maine State Police and Maine Attorney General’s Office.
Macomber said the defendants pose an extreme flight risk if released on bail. The prosecutor said Sharon Carrillo has only lived in Maine for two years. She has no criminal record. Julio Carrillo has a domestic violence assault conviction from 2000 in Kentucky.
If the pair were able to raise the cash bail, they would be prohibited from contact with anyone under 15 years old.
Megan Doyle, Portland Press Herald also contributed to this story.
Murder defendants Sharon Carrillo and Julio Carrillo of Stockton Springs are led into Waldo Superior Court in Belfast on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. The Carrillos are charged in the death of their daughter/stepdaughter Marissa Kennedy last weekend. (Staff Photo by David Leaming/Morning Sentinel Photographer)