The stepfather of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy pleaded guilty in Waldo County Superior Court on Monday to her murder.
Julio Carrillo had initially pleaded not guilty to the abuse death, which happened in February of last year. The girl’s mother, Sharon Carrillo, meanwhile, is still awaiting trial on murder charges.
New details about the case emerged in the court hearing Monday. Before Julio Carrillo could enter his guilty plea, Justice Robert Murray asked state prosecutors to list what evidence they would have presented had the case gone to trial. Assistant Attorney General Don Macomber spent more than 10 minutes discussing the case against Carrillo, including the fact that two former employers would have testified that Carrillo told them Kennedy died at least a month before she actually did.
“And he produced a death certificate. And he actually obtained bereavement leave from both employers for the death of his daughter,” Macomber said.
He also detailed the months of abuse the 10-year-old endured on a near daily basis, for hours at a time. He told the court that the state’s chief medical examiner determined Kennedy had 50 known injuries when she died. No one injury was necessarily fatal — from being struck by a belt buckle, mop handle and bare hands — Macomber said, but the “constancy and severity of the trauma” and accompanying stress, evidenced by her hair loss, led to her death.
When Macomber finished, Justice Murray asked Carrillo if he still wanted to plead guilty. He quietly answered yes.
“He really wanted to take responsibility for his part in this,” said Carrillo’s attorney Darrick Banda.
Outside the courthouse, Banda told reporters that his client is trying to take a positive step forward and accept whatever his future holds.
Carrillo faces a minimum sentence of 25 years for depraved indifference murder. Don Macomber said the state will seek the maximum life sentence.
“This was a heinous crime that affected the entire state, and we’re glad that he was finally able to step up and admit what he did to his stepdaughter,” he said.
Sharon Carrillo also faces a charge of depraved indifference murder. Her attorney Laura Shaw attended the hearing and told reporters afterwards that the guilty plea validates her client’s claim that it was her husband who was responsible for Kennedy’s death.
“Hopefully that will have some kind of an effect on Sharon’s case. It won’t have any automatic effect, but the state might be a little more willing to work with us,” she said. “We’ll be asking them to dismiss charges. Whether or not that will happen, I’m not sure.”
In recent months, Carrillo’s attorneys have argued that she was also the victim of severe abuse and, combined with her cognitive impairments, was coerced into making incriminating statements to police in the immediate aftermath of her daughter’s death.
Justice Murray denied a motion to toss out those statements. And Macomber said Julio Carrillo’s guilty plea doesn’t change the case against Sharon Carrillo.
“That matter is still set for trial in December. At that time, the state will introduce sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that she, like her husband, is guilty of the murder of Marissa Kennedy,” he said.
Julio Carrillo is being held without bail as he awaits sentencing on Aug. 28.