BELFAST — A Stockton Springs mother has been sentenced to 48 years in prison for murdering her 10-year-old daughter, whose death from repeated beatings shook the state and sparked reforms in Maine’s child protection system.

Sharon Kennedy, whose name was Sharon Carrillo at the time of her arrest, wiped her eyes with a tissue as the judge announced her sentence Friday afternoon at the Waldo County Superior Court. The hearing took place almost two years to the day after first responders found Marissa Kennedy’s battered body in the family’s condominium in February 2018.

Marissa Kennedy

Julio Carrillo, who was Kennedy’s husband and Marissa’s stepfather, pleaded guilty to murder last year for his own role in the girl’s death. The same judge sentenced him to 55 years in prison. A jury convicted Sharon Kennedy at the end of a graphic and emotional trial in December.

“This defendant was an active participant in the depraved indifference murder of Marissa Kennedy,” Superior Court Justice Robert Murray said Friday. “This defendant’s own words demonstrated her complicity in this crime, and that complicity was not limited to merely facilitating her co-defendant’s beating of Marissa Kennedy or her cover-up or her failure to report the brutal injuries that her daughter had sustained to people and authorities that might have been able to do something to stop the violence.

“This defendant confessed over the course of a number of hours of interviews in her own words, and she said, ‘We beat her to death.’ ‘I should never have done it.’ ‘I should have just talked to her and not beat my own child.’ ”

The attorneys sought penalties at the two possible extremes for murder.

The prosecutor asked for a sentence of life in prison, which is the maximum under Maine law.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea repeated the words Marissa said to her mother just days before her body gave out to the effects of months of abuse: “I feel like I’m dying.” She repeated in detail the findings of the chief medical examiner, who concluded that Marissa died from battered child syndrome, and other information from the trial.

Sharon Kennedy enters court during her sentencing hearing in Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast on Friday. Kennedy was sentenced to 48 years in prison by Justice Robert Murray for the 2018 depraved indifference murder of her 10-year-old daughter Marissa Kennedy. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Zainea also argued that Sharon Kennedy’s actions could not be excused by her low cognitive ability or her own experiences of domestic violence by her husband.

But Zainea spent most of her argument talking about the life Marissa lived. She described Marissa as a fifth-grader who loved to read, played happily with her younger siblings and wanted a Barbie Dreamhouse.

“Her death should not define who she was,” Zainea said. “She had a bright and promising future ahead of her, but her life ended in a horrific way at the hands of the very people who should have nurtured and cared for her.”

The defense lawyer asked for a sentence of 25 years in prison, the minimum for murder.

Attorney Laura Shaw argued Kennedy was herself a victim of domestic violence. She said Carrillo manipulated his wife, and Kennedy suffered from cognitive impairments that made her unable to get help for herself and her daughter.

She also said the jury could have believed that Kennedy acted as an accomplice to the murder and still found her guilty, which would warrant a lesser sentence.

“The evidence showed that Julio Carrillo was the mastermind of what happened to Marissa Kennedy,” Shaw said.

The judge also heard statements from multiple relatives, and they all recalled Marissa as a young girl who was bright and loving.

Steven Kennedy, who was Marissa’s uncle and godfather, wrote a letter to the court. He said he wears a cross around his neck with her ashes, and he described watching her take her first steps when the family lived in New York.

“A rough week at work could easily be forgotten when she came to visit,” the letter said. “Life’s troubles were no longer a priority when she would sit down to read you a book.”

Joseph and Roseann Kennedy, who were Marissa’s grandparents, read multiple letters of support that described her happy life of church, library visits and swimming lessons. They blamed Julio Carrillo for turning a caring mother into a shell of her former self, and they asked the court for leniency.

With a photo of Marissa Kennedy with her uncle Steven Kennedy on a monitor in front of them, Sharon Kennedy and her attorney Laura Shaw listen to Assistant Attorney General Leanne Zaniea speak to the court Friday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

They also told the court that they would establish a trust fund to ensure their daughter would be cared for in a safe place if she is ever released from prison. Sharon Kennedy turned in her seat to tearfully watch her father and stepmother as they spoke in the courtroom.

“I have lost one person that has brought many years of joy to my life, and now I fear I am losing a second,” Joseph Kennedy said.

The judge did treat husband and wife differently in sentencing.

When Murray imposed his sentence on Julio Carrillo, he said the man’s actions were equal to torture, which is one gateway to a life sentence under Maine law. But on Friday, he said he did not find that Kennedy’s actions reached the same standard because she did not participate in all of the abuse, so he could not consider a life sentence in her case.

And he agreed that Sharon Kennedy was a victim of domestic violence, but he said he did not treat that history as a mitigating factor because it was not a cause of the abuse on Marissa.

The judge credited the family members who continue to support Kennedy.

“Their ongoing support for Sharon is laudable,” Murray said. “That does not minimize the loss that they feel of Marissa, the absence of Marissa from their lives.”

While Kennedy did not make her own statement at the hearing, her lawyer told the judge that she carries a photo of her daughter with her always. After the hearing, Shaw said the defense will appeal both the conviction and the sentence. She said she was surprised the judge did not give greater weight to the domestic violence Kennedy experienced in her marriage.

“One of the state’s arguments had been her failure to get help and the lies she told,” Shaw said after the hearing. “To say that domestic violence doesn’t affect those decisions is surprising to me.”

Outside the courthouse, the prosecutor said she felt Marissa’s voice had been heard.

“We got to know a little bit more about who Marissa was,” Zainea said.

While Zainea had talked about Marissa in the courtroom, she displayed smiling photos of Marissa with her uncle. In one picture, she stretched her grin wide with her fingers. In another, she wore a bright green party dress.

As she spoke about Marissa in court, Zainea read aloud from written exercises the girl completed at Sweetser in Maine, talking about the Barbie Dreamhouse and her friends at school.

“She wrote that people should never think others are bad,” Zainea said. “Because they are not.”

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