The final year and a half of Marissa Kennedy’s short life was filled with dozens of unexcused school absences, missed field trips, emergency room visits and interactions with child welfare workers looking into potential abuse.

Yet a document released Friday shows child welfare caseworkers, medical professionals and police failed to piece together the information – or see through the ready-made excuses offered by Marissa’s parents – before the 10-year-old died from prolonged abuse.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services released 12 pages of additional “summary information” offering the most detailed public account yet of events leading up to Marissa’s death in February 2018. The medical examiner determined she died of “battered child syndrome” after months of severe abuse.

DHHS disclosed the information, as allowed by law, hours after Sharon Kennedy, whose name was Sharon Carrillo at the time of her arrest, was sentenced to 48 years in prison for the murder of her daughter. Marissa’s stepfather, Julio Carrillo, is already serving a 55-year sentence.

Department officials declined Friday to release additional information or the names of staff members involved in Marissa’s case. But the department pointed to numerous reforms – such as hiring 130 Office of Child and Family Services staff, changing assessment practices and enhancing training – implemented in response to the abuse-related deaths of Marissa and 4-year-old Kendall Chick of Wiscasset months earlier.

“The tragic death of Marissa Kennedy, along with that of Kendall Chick, sheds long overdue light on Maine’s child welfare system,” DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in a statement. “While we have further to go, we are on a path to reform and progress. We maintain our commitment to transparency and learning from the past as we strive for a system that promotes safety, stability, health and happiness for all Maine children and families.”


While aspects of the information in it came out during Sharon Carrillo’s trial in December, the document illustrates in extensive detail how often school personnel, neighbors and medical professionals contacted DHHS with concerns about Marissa’s well-being.

For instance, teachers or other staff at Marissa’s elementary schools in Bangor notified or spoke with DHHS on at least eight separate occasions from October 2016 to June 2017 to discuss her repeated absences. She was also not allowed to attend any field trips one year and was “sleepy” all week at another time, which Sharon Carrillo blamed on new medications aimed at addressing what her parents said were behavioral issues.

“Marissa had continued to miss school and discrepancies were noted in the family’s explanations for her absences,” reads one summary from April 4, 2017. “Julio had reported that Marissa was hospitalized, but her doctor was not aware of any hospital admission. School personnel also reported they had been to the home and talked with neighbors who said they were worried about the family but did not want to share additional information.”

Police visited the family’s Bangor apartment at least four times, mostly in response to neighbors’ complaints about yelling and shouting. In one instance, police responded to a report that Julio Carrillo had been punching a child in the leg “but the family had left by the time they arrived.”

Julio and Sharon Carrillo brought Marissa to emergency rooms well over a dozen times but seemingly always for behavioral issues. She was at an ER five times in five days in July 2017 but, in each case, the family “left before a plan could be made or services could be offered.”

While Marissa was hospitalized several times for behavioral issues, those treating her never saw the violent, self-harming or out-of-control antics described by her parents.


Instead, doctors, counselors and other medical personnel repeatedly raised concerns about the Carrillos’ failure to follow through on referrals, their habit of missing appointments and whether medications were being properly administered.

The DHHS document also highlights the numerous times that child welfare caseworkers or others suspected Julio Carrillo of abuse but felt they lacked sufficient evidence.

In June 2017, for instance, a caseworker interviewing the family “noted no findings or signs of danger but ‘a lot of worries about (domestic violence) by Julio’ ” because of neighbors’ complaints and Julio’s apparent control over his wife and step-daughter.

Weeks later, the DHHS-employed caseworker expressed his or her concerns with a case manager for an outside agency also working with the Carrillos.

“The caseworker explained the Department’s concerns regarding domestic violence; Julio not allowing Marissa or Sharon to speak privately with providers; and about inconsistencies in their statements about services, appointments, housing, etc.,” reads a description of a June 16, 2017, conversation.

“The case manager reported that Marissa wouldn’t talk to her and she was very concerned about Marissa’s demeanor,” the entry continues. “The case manager also reported that Sharon did very little talking and didn’t want to sign any releases.”


Yet less than two weeks later, the case manager “reported she had to close Marissa’s case due to being unable to complete the assessment within 30 days.” DHHS then referred the Carrillos to another outside contractor, known as an “alternative response program,” that provides home-based “intervention services” to reduce the risk of abuse.

That contract was canceled four month later “due to the client refusing services.” But a week later, Julio Carrillo agreed to the services again after his wife threatened to kill herself.

Two days before Marissa’s death in February 2018, a social worker with the alternative response program observed bruising and scratches on the girl while visiting the home. Sharon and Julio Carrillo explained the injuries – as well as Marissa’s inability to stay awake – as the result of the girl self-harming and her “emotions.”

During Sharon Carrillo’s trial, however, it became clear that Marissa was likely unable to walk or talk on her own that day because her body was failing after months of abuse.

The document is a laundry list of child welfare programs and services involved with the Carrillos over the 17-month period: caseworkers from DHHS’ Office of Child and Family Services, targeted case management, child development services, home and community treatment services, alternative response program.

Subsequent investigations and reports on Marissa’s death, as well as that of Kendall Chick, faulted DHHS for failing to follow policies or conduct follow-up assessments. In both cases, observers gave too much stock to adults’ explanations of injuries or health concerns with the girls.

In Marissa’s case, better communication between social service agencies, police and other observers may have led DHHS to take different actions.

“In one case, we observed that the risk of child abuse/neglect, particularly risk of physical abuse, was not necessarily evident without continually putting together many pieces of information held by various parties interacting with the child and/or her parents over time,” reads a May 2018 report from the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability.

While there was considerable information-sharing happening, “periodic reassessments of the whole body of information known about the family might also have prompted different approaches to addressing the risks identified.”

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