BELFAST — The trial of Sharon Carrillo continued Friday, Dec. 13, after state prosecutors Assistant Attorneys General Leane Zainea and Donald Macomber rested their case Thursday afternoon.
The defense began calling witnesses late in the day Thursday, with a couple who lived in the same condominium complex as Sharon and Julio Carrillo, and the downstairs neighbor of the Carrillos, when they lived in Bangor.
The couple told jurors that there were two units separating their condos, and on a number of occasions, Sharon had visited them, looking for money, food, or in one case, Christmas decor.
Henry Capano was the first to take the stand and said he had been in the Carrillo condo several times as he was the condo’s caretaker. Two of the occasions, according to Capano, were fairly close together, and occurred when two cabinet doors broke off the cabinet, while the third visit was prompted by a broken door.
Capano said that when he entered the condo he noticed the condo was “vacant” with only a couple of folding chairs in the living room. Capano said on one occasion Sharon was sitting in one of the chairs holding her baby, but didn’t make any motions. Capano said it was strange, and that even after he said hello, Sharon said nothing.
Jessica Engstrom, who lived above the Carrillos when they resided in Bangor, testified that she heard constant noise from above, and that in some rooms of the house she could make out exactly what was being said. Engstrom testified that she often heard Julio and Sharon screaming at each other and also frequently heard children crying.
Engstrom testified he witnessed Julio kick the back of Sharon’s knees while she was carrying one of her children, and another time she was carrying groceries. Engstrom said that each time Sharon fell down.
Before the trial started Friday morning, Dec. 13, Julio Carrillo was brought into a different courtroom to be questioned away from the jury.
Julio, dressed in prison orange beneath a plain white sweatshirt, repeatedly pleaded the Fifth Amendment for each of the handful of questions he was asked, which included whether he forced Marissa and Sharon to kneel on the floor and whether he ever hit them with a belt.
Sharon Carillo’s attorney, Chris MacLean, stopped questioning Carrillo when it became clear he would not answer questions and he was subsequently dismissed as a witness.
The first person to testify in front of the jury on Friday was Sharon Carrillo’s stepmother, Roseann Kennedy, who Julio and Sharon initially said sent texts directing Julio and Sharon to punish Marissa, to which Roseann denied, “never.”
Kennedy testified that she met Sharon when Sharon was three years old. It was Roseann who first noticed that Sharon wasn’t up to speed with her peers and that she didn’t start talking until she was almost five, Roseann said.
Sharon was placed in school, but after failing Kindergarten, was placed in a school for those with special needs, where she reportedly excelled, according to Roseann and Joe Kennedy.
Kennedy said the class sizes in both the Catholic school Sharon attended in her younger years and Maplebrook school consisted of 5-10 students, allowing for much for focused attention and help for Sharon, according to Roseann. Sharon also attended school for 12 months out of the year.
“We did everything with her to try to get her involved with the quote unquote normal population,” Roseann told jurors.
Roseann also said that although Sharon graduated from high school, it was not with a typical diploma; rather it was a basic diploma testing only three subjects and achieving the required a score of 65 to pass. The diploma is no longer available in New York, according to Kennedy.
When asked about Sharon’s cognitive abilities, Roseann said that she was “very concrete,” and would do things exactly as she was told to.
Roseann said Sharon could not infer anything from instructions and had to be guided along step by step. This affected Sharon’s few jobs, including the first, where she worked moving files around a medical clerks office. Sharon was able to get hired after volunteering at a hospital beforehand.
The second job Marissa had was as at a daycare owned and operated by Julio Carrillo’s mother, according to Roseann. There was a brief period where Sharon believed that she had been hired as a crossing guard for children, getting up each morning to perform her duty. When Roseann inquired when Sharon might get a paycheck, Sharon discovered that she hadn’t been hired at all, but was actually a volunteer.
Sharon got pregnant with Marissa, which Roseann and her father Joseph Kennedy would not find out until further along in her pregnancy, Roseann said.
Both Joseph and Roseann Kennedy testified that Sharon refused to say who fathered Marissa.
“We were mortified because we knew that Sharon did not have the intellectual ability to take care of a child,” Roseann said.
They had people come into the home to prepare Sharon for how to feed and care for a baby, though Roseann added that she and Joseph helped Sharon once Marissa arrived.
Sharon was then hired at Walmart, going through an employment agency that works with those with special needs, Kennedy said. She also said that she had to go into the store multiple times to stop Sharon from being fired for being too slow. She had to talk to the manager and floor managers about Sharon’s learning difficulties before she was allowed to continue working.
Roseann said Sharon loved to work.
“She loved being a part of things. She used to make cookies and bake for them, brownies, or cake, and bring it to work,” Roseanne said, noting that no one would eat the food Sharon took in.
It was during her time at Walmart that Sharon met Julio, which Roseann Kennedy said they only learned of a few months into the relationship.
Kennedy said Julio came to the house, was introduced, was calm and had an answer for everything. Kennedy said her initial concern was the 20-year age difference between the two, but hoped the older Julio would take care of Sharon, who Roseann said had been cared for all her life, either at home or school.
Julio and Sharon married in 2016, according to Kennedy.
She said that for about a year Sharon and Julio resided in an apartment in New York and that during that time Marissa would spend roughly four to five nights per week at the house, to provide Julio and Sharon space, and to help Marissa transition into her new life with two parents.
The Carrillos then moved to Bangor, and were ultimately kicked out from their apartment there due to too many complaints and visits from police. It was then, Roseann said, that Julio and Sharon asked about staying in the Stockton Springs condo owned by Roseann and Joseph Kennedy.
The Kennedys were told at first that the stay would just be for a week or two while their new apartment in Searsport was readied for them, though they ended up staying in the condo up until Marissa’s 2018 death.
Both Roseann and Joseph Kennedy, who testified immediately after his wife, said that as time passed while they lived in the Stockton Springs condo, reaching Marissa and Sharon by phone became harder and harder. Roseann said that while they were able to talk to the two early on, eventually Julio began interfering, standing by while Sharon and Marissa were on the phone and telling them what answers to give.
Roseann said she once called to ask what book Marissa was reading and that in the background she heard Julio whisper The Godfather, which Marissa repeated moments later.
Eventually, Julio began saying that Marissa and Sharon were unable to talk when the Kennedy’s called, with Julio saying Sharon was sleeping or driving Marissa to a friend’s home, and that Marissa was outside or with friends.
At one point, Joseph Kennedy approached Julio about the idea of having Marissa attend school in New York. Sharon’s brother had offered to care for Marissa during the school year to make things easier on the financially struggling Carrillo household. Joseph said that he approached Julio instead of Sharon because “Julio ran the house,” and seemed to be the decision-maker. Joseph said.
When asked what Julio had said about the proposition, Joseph said Julio: “Said it would be nice and he would talk to Sharon about it. That’s what I got from him every time I asked; he’d smile and yes you to death,” Joseph said.
Sharon and Marissa’s visits to New York lessened. Both Joseph and Roseann said they were concerned when they learned that all five members of the household were sleeping in a single bedroom. Joseph said he had specifically told Sharon and Julio that Marissa could use the second bedroom on the main floor, and though said they would move her, that never happened.
When Joseph and Roseann visited the condo in August, they spent the week with Marissa, asking her where she wanted to go, if she wanted to go to Pirate’s Cove in Bar Harbor, which led Marissa to look at Julio, agreeing only after he nodded at her. A similar scene played out when Joseph and Roseann took the family out for dinner; when asked what she wanted to eat, instead of responding Marissa again looked to Julio.
Roseann recalled a moment in the condo where the baby needed his diaper changed. Roseann said to Sharon, who was sitting in one of the camp chairs in the living room, that Louis needed to be changed. Roseannn said that Sharon didn’t move at all nor did she respond. When Julio walked by minutes later and told Sharon to change the baby, Roseann told jurors Sharon rose slowly without saying anything and took the baby by the hand.
When asked whether she was able to see Marissa when she and Joseph Kennedy traveled to Maine for Marissa’s birthday in Oct. 2017, Roseann said no before breaking down sobbing. Roseann said Julio wouldn’t even tell her where Marissa was or what type of hospital she was in, only she was in treatment in Belfast.
“We had gotten her tickets to a magic show and they wouldn’t let us go where she was in Belfast,” Roseann said, before lapsing back into crying.
Both Roseann and Joseph Kennedy also testified that during the years that Marissa and Sharon resided with them, they had never seen her raise a hand or even her voice to Marissa. In fact, Roseann said, if she ever raised her voice because Marissa hadn’t done her homework.
Joseph Kennedy also testified that while Sharon had an extensive support system while living in New York, she had only one acquaintance in Maine, a waitress she had known since she began coming to Maine as a child with Joseph and Roseann Kennedy.
During cross-examination, Roseann was asked by Assistant Attorney General Macomber if she had a hard time believing that Sharon confessed. Roseann said she only confessed after being told she’s been a part of things.
Roseann went on to say that Sharon would never have used the term 50 percent.
“That came out of Julio’s mouth,” she told Macomber. “After seeing how much control [Julio] had over her, I believe he told her and she had no choice because her brain was gone,” Roseann said.
“Even though there is no evidence of that?” Macomber asked.
“I don’t care, there’s no evidence for a lot of things,” she said, as Macomber then ended his cross-examination.
Joseph Kennedy took the stand after his wife, echoing the responses given by his wife shortly before.
Joseph recalled that after the family moved to Maine it became increasingly difficult to reach them, saying that Julio Carrillo seemed to change his phone number all the time without telling anyone. Both Joseph and Roseann Kennedy said they would call and get no response, only to be called back sometime later by Julio saying he’d gotten a new phone.
When Macomber cross-examined Joseph Kennedy, he started by saying, ‘you loved Marissa.’
Joseph responded that Marissa was like a daughter to him, though he did not agree with Macomber when he asked whether he and Roseann had raised Marissa, saying that they had helped and Marissa was lucky to “have three parents.”
If convicted Sharon Carrillo, faces a sentence of 25 years to life.
The trial of Sharon Carrillo will continue Monday, Dec. 16.
Erica Thoms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org