Marissa Kennedy steps on the bus for the first day of kindergarten in New Windsor, New York several years ago. Credit: Contributed

She was shy, pale and skinny, but had a bright smile, and loved to read.

Her favorite color was purple.

When she was a fourth-grade student at Fairmount School in Bangor during the 2016-2017 school year, Marissa Kennedy had several friends, three of them close, a former classmate said.

“Her smile really lit up her face,” said Miranda Macy, 10.

On school days that began with reading, Marissa was often glued to her book, even after the teacher said it was time to stop, she said.

Marissa did not talk to Miranda about her family — except when she expressed excitement about a new baby brother, she said.

Still, there were signs that something might be wrong, a suspicion that was confirmed for friends this week, after Marissa was found dead on Sunday in her family’s Stockton Springs condo. Her mother, Sharon Carrillo, 33, and her stepfather, Julio Carrillo, 51, were charged with depraved indifference murder for allegedly beating her to death after abusing her for months.

Documents and interviews with more than a dozen friends and former co-workers of Sharon Carrillo reveal some details about her family. But there are holes in the timeline where friends say they lost touch with a woman who seemed to be increasingly isolated.

‘Sweet little girl’

Before she married Julio Carrillo, Sharon Kennedy lived with her daughter in New Windsor, New York. Neighbors did not know who the birth father was, and said that nothing seemed unusual about Sharon’s relationship with her daughter at the time.

Elaine Perdomo, 40, said that her son and Marissa were friends and went to preschool together. She’d see Marissa and Sharon in their neighborhood cul de sac. The family sometimes attended birthday parties for Marissa’s classmates, or went to movies or skating with friends, and Marissa always seemed to be smiling.

“I just remember her being this quiet, sweet little girl, but so friendly,” Perdomo said. “She didn’t seem like anything was wrong.”

Alex Lynford, 32, a high school classmate and close friend of Sharon’s, said he knew she loved Marissa.

“Sharon adored her. She loved that kid,” said Lynford, who first met Marissa in 2008 at their five-year high school reunion, just after she was born. “The Sharon Kennedy I knew was always caring, always followed the rules, always did the right thing,”

Lynford said he and Sharon ran in the same circles, even in the years after graduation.

They still spoke often on the phone, until Sharon and Julio married, Lynford said. That’s when she stopped returning calls.

When news broke of Marissa’s death, Lynford said he wondered why Sharon hadn’t asked her friends for help.

“We’ve been trying to figure out why she didn’t reach out to any of us,” Lynford said. “I’m just surprised, because she has been there for me. I would’ve been there for her in a heartbeat.”

Julio enters the picture

Sharon and Julio Carrillo met in 2013, and worked together at the Walmart Supercenter in Newburgh, New York, about 20 miles south of Poughkeepsie, according to former co-workers and a friend. Sharon had been working there for several years when Julio arrived, and the two started dating soon after.

About two months into their relationship, Julio proposed to Sharon over the store intercom one afternoon, according to Loyda Iris, who worked in the back of the store with Sharon.

“Afterwards, she got on the intercom and said ‘yes,’” Iris said. “Everyone seemed excited for them.”

Police were familiar with the family even when they lived in New York. New Windsor’s police Chief Richard Hovey said his department was dispatched to the Carrillos’ apartment three times in 2015 and 2016, twice for disorderly conduct complaints and once for a welfare check, according to the Times Herald-Record. But there was no indication that a child lived in the apartment at the time, police said.

Kristin Sligar, 33, another high school classmate and close friend of Sharon’s, said they still kept in touch, but less frequently after Sharon married.

“His name is Julio. My family loves him,” Sharon told Sligar in Facebook message on Jan. 23, 2015. “He treats me so much better than anyone else.”

A move to Maine

It’s not clear what brought the Carrillos to Bangor from New York in August 2016, when they signed a one-year lease for a second-floor apartment at 591 Main St.

They weren’t well-known to neighbors, who said they heard numerous fights and domestic disputes from the apartment.

Emmaline, 11, whose mother allowed her to speak on the condition her last name not be used, said her classmate, Marissa, would sometimes miss at least three days of school in one week. When she was in school, the teacher often let her take naps in class because she looked exhausted, she said.

Marissa sometimes showed up to school with bruises, and told Macy she had been to the hospital, said Macy’s mother, Kelli Giles, 41.

Macy said she never got to know Marissa’s parents because Giles did not let the girls spend time together after school.

“And thank God I went with my gut and told her she couldn’t go there the one time she asked,” Giles said.

Giles did not know the Carrillos, but met them once at school dismissal. They were “very friendly” but kept to themselves, and gave Giles a nervous feeling, she said.

Less than a week into their tenancy, neighbors had already called the police and the property management company “about the level of noise” at the Carrillos’ apartment, according to a notice from Maine Real Estate Management LLC. On Aug. 6, six days after they moved in, their landlord, Richway Associates, served them a notice that they could be evicted.

But that didn’t happen until the following summer, according to court documents, when the accumulated noise complaints about fighting, screaming, and what sounded like domestic abuse led to the termination of their lease at the end of May, property manager Peter Cook said.

When they didn’t leave, the Carrillos were summoned to appear in Penobscot County Superior Court on June 9, 2017, according to court documents. So the family wouldn’t be left homeless, lawyers struck a deal that allowed them to stay in the apartment through July, Cook said.

Around that time, officials at the Bangor School Department were reporting suspicions of abuse and neglect to the Department of Health and Human Services. Jill Reid, 45, the cleaning lady at the Carrillos’ apartment building, also reported concerns to the agency’s child abuse hotline, she said.

Following their eviction, they moved to Stockton Springs, and Marissa enrolled at Searsport Elementary School. The family lived in a condominium owned by Sharon Carrillo’s parents.

Sharon Carrillo’s defense attorney, Christopher MacLean of Camden, has said he believes his client was the victim of serious mental and physical abuse. He has also alleged that Sharon may have been manipulated into participating in Marissa’s beatings. Julio Carrillo’s attorney, Steven Peterson of Rockland, said his client has been concerned about his wife’s welfare in jail, especially given the fact that she is due to deliver a baby in May.

But Sharon Carrillo insisted to Sligar that fall that she loved Julio. They had two children together and were expecting another.

“He saved my life,” Sharon told Sligar in October 2017, after she moved to Stockton Springs. “I love him so much.”

Later that month, the two exchanged pictures of their baby bumps, and Sharon sent pictures of her three children. One showed Sharon and Marissa smiling from the previous Christmas.

The last time the friends spoke was Oct. 23 on Facebook — the same month the Carrillos began to regularly beat their 10-year-old daughter, according to a police affidavit.

Sharon said she couldn’t talk, and Sligar asked if she was OK.

“Yes, busy cooking,” Sharon said. “Husband putting kids to sleep.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.

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Callie Ferguson

Callie Ferguson is an investigative reporter for the Bangor Daily News. She writes about criminal justice, police and housing.