- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 28, 2019

BELFAST, Maine (AP) - A judge imposed a 55-year prison sentence Wednesday on a man for the beating death of his 10-year-old stepdaughter, a crime that led to changes in the state welfare system.

Julio Carrillo and the child’s mother are accused of beating Marissa Kennedy and trying to make her death look like an accident in February 2018 in Stockton Springs.

Carrillo wept as he addressed the court, saying, “I am so sorry, Marissa,” before being sentenced.

A prosecutor said the child was “systematically tortured” over several months until her “heart gave out.”

The state medical examiner’s office concluded Marissa was victim of battered child syndrome with injuries including bleeding in the brain, a lacerated liver and “multiple old injuries.” A state police affidavit indicated both Julio and Sharon Carrillo admitted to participating in the abuse.

Julio Carrillo, 52, pleaded guilty to murder.

His wife, Sharon, 34, claims both she and Marissa were victims of abuse. But the state intends to try her for murder, saying both she and her husband bore responsibility for her daughter’s injuries.

She was not present in the courtroom, and the judge denied a request from her attorney to read a statement aloud.

Julio Carrillo’s parents pleaded for mercy, saying their son was not a monster but was overwhelmed by his circumstances.

Carmen Carrillo, his mother, told Justice Robert Murray that her son’s fate was in the hands of two powerful individuals: “One is my Lord Jesus Christ, and the other is you.”

Joseph Kennedy, the victim’s grandfather, asked the judge to impose a life sentence, saying Julio Carrillo shrugged off attempts to help the couple.

The Maine attorney general’s office sought a sentence of life in prison, the maximum allowed in Maine. Defense attorney Darrick Banda asked for a sentence of 35 to 40 years and noted that Julio Carrillo took responsibility for his actions.

The deaths of Marissa and another girl, 4-year-old Kendall Chick, in December 2017, led to changes in Maine’s child protective system because child welfare caseworkers failed to intervene.

The state boosted funding for caseworkers and changed how the state tackles investigations into alleged child abuse, among other things.

Maine Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, said in a statement that the state should’ve intervened earlier to protect Marissa. Bangor school officials had reported suspected abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services before the family moved to Stockton Springs.

“The state needs to do a better job protecting children, and the Legislature needs to take decisive action to fix our broken child protection system. We can’t simply pass the buck to DHHS,” he said.

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