Julio Carrillo pleads guilty for the fatal beating of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy Monday, July 22, 2019, at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast, Maine. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

BELFAST, Maine — Julio Carrillo pleaded guilty on Monday to depraved indifference murder for the beating death of his 10-year-old stepdaughter, Marissa Kennedy.

Carrillo, 52, entered his plea during a hearing Monday afternoon at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast. He had been scheduled to go on trial next month.

A sentencing hearing for Carrillo was scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 28. The state is seeking a life sentence.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Both Julio Carrillo and his wife, Sharon Carillo, 34, Marissa Kennedy’s mother, were charged with murder following the February 2018 death of the child at their home in Stockton Springs.

The child allegedly suffered months of physical abuse leading up to her death. Because the state’s Department of Health and Human Services had received multiple reports alleging that the 10-year-old was being abused, Marissa Kennedy’s death focused intense scrutiny on Maine’s child welfare system.

At Monday’s hearing, Assistant Attorney General Don Macomber described the evidence and testimony that the state would have presented if Julio Carrillo had gone to trial.

Macomber disclosed that about a month before Marissa Kennedy’s death, Julio Carrillo told his employers that his daughter had died. Macomber said the employers would have testified that Julio Carrillo presented a death certificate and received bereavement leave.

On Julio Carrillo’s cellphone, Macomber said analysts found a photo of Marissa Kennedy kneeling naked on the floor with her hands above her head. During her autopsy, the medical examiner found open sores on her knees and feet that were infected.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

The medical examiner’s office listed Marissa Kennedy’s cause of death as battered child syndrome and listed injuries including bleeding in the brain, a lacerated liver and “multiple old injuries.”

“Not a single one of her [approximately] 50 injuries would be fatal,” Macomber said, but the combined effects of the repeated beatings killed Marissa Kennedy.

Marissa Kennedy was beaten on a nearly daily basis for hours per day in the months leading up to her death, according to Macomber.

Marissa Kennedy’s heart was swollen and had gone into failure, Macomber said, which was evidenced by foam coming out of her nose. The beatings also resulted in an autoimmune disease that affected her thyroid, Macomber said, which limited her ability “to fight back.”

The child also suffered from stress-related hair loss, Macomber said.

Julio Carrillo called 911 the afternoon of Feb. 24, 2018, claiming he had discovered the child unresponsive and bleeding from the mouth downstairs next to the furnace. Both Carrillos later allegedly admitted to participating in the abuse and trying to cover it up, according to the police affidavit filed in support of their arrest.

Both parents told investigators they decided not to seek medical help for Marissa when she stopped moving and her speech started slurring after one of these beatings on Feb. 22 or 23. They “punished” her again because they believed she was pretending.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Macomber said that when first responders arrived at the scene, they found a pool of blood in the living room next to a “camp chair,” which was the only piece of furniture in the living room. Marissa Kennedy was found in a bedroom “cold to the touch” and “stiff,” indicating that “she had been dead for a significant period of time before the 911 call,” Macomber said.

The beatings reportedly happened regularly since at least October, the parents allegedly told police. Macomber said Marissa Kennedy was beaten with hands, fists, a belt with a metal buckle and a metal mop, which broke in half after repeated strikes to the girl’s midsection, according to court documents. Police said that broken mop was still in the room when they arrived to investigate her death.

Julio Carrillo’s clothes were tested for blood spatter and DNA evidence. Macomber said Marissa Kennedy’s DNA was found on his shirt and her blood was found on his pants. A belt found in the home also had blood and tissue cells from the child. Her DNA was also on the mop.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Julio Carrillo’s attorney, Darrick X. Banda, said Monday that his client ultimately pleaded guilty instead of going to trial next month because “Julio’s best bet at this point is to accept responsibility and move forward,” Banda said.

“Which is a stark contrast to his wife, who continues to deflect blame and point the finger and deny responsibility,” he said.

Banda said it will be up to prosecutors whether Julio Carrillo will testify at Sharon Carrillo’s trial.

In terms of sentencing, Banda said he will likely seek a sentence similar to that of Shawna Gatto, who was convicted earlier this year of the murder of 4-year-old Kendall Chick. Gatto was sentenced to serve 50 years in prison.

Sharon Carrillo is scheduled to go on trial in December. However, following news that Julio Carrillo would enter a guilty plea, Sharon Carrillo’s defense team said they will ask the state to dismiss the murder charge against her.

Sharon Carrillo’s attorneys, Laura Shaw and Chris MacLean, have argued that she endured physical and mental abuse at the hands of her husband. Sharon Carrillo is currently seeking to have her marriage annulled.

According to court documents, “Julio Carrillo would physically force [Sharon and Marissa] to strip naked and kneel together on the floor of their home. He would force them to hold their arms in the air and threatened to beat them with his hands and other objects if they lowered their arms,” which caused “excruciating” pain.

Both Julio and Sharon Carrillo initially pleaded not guilty to the murder charges. After the hearing Monday, Macomber said Julio Carrillo’s plea does not “change the case against Sharon at all.”