Friends, family mourn loss of 10-year-old girl
PORTLAND (WGME) – A legislative committee is investigating how the Department of Human Services handled several high profile child abuse cases in Maine, including the recent murder of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy in Stockton Springs.
Kennedy was allegedly killed by her mother and stepfather.
Her family in New York, where Marissa spent the first seven years of her life, will be watching the investigation closely.
Before there was Maine, there was the Hudson Valley for Marissa Kennedy and her mother, Sharon Carillo.
They lived in New Windsor, where Marissa started going to Windsor Academy at the age of 18 months, and continued in aftercare for seven years.
The owner says Marissa was a delight.
Rita Epstein says she became very close to the family, and never saw any signs of abuse.
"Blindsided, blindsided,” Epstein said. “And I've been in this field for fifty years and unfortunately have been exposed to a lot of red flags and I'm blindsided."
Epstein says she barely recognizes Marissa’s mother, Sharon Carillo, in the photos she's seen since the murder. She says that is not the woman she knew.
"Very close relationship with Sharon Kennedy. I know her as Sharon Kennedy," Epstein said. "To be honest, I'm going through two losses right now. I lost Marissa and I lost Sharon.”
That loss is echoed throughout the New York community. At the funeral home, hundreds of people came to pay their respects.
Sharon Carillo's mother, Donna Pecorarro, has not seen her daughter for several years. She remembers the last time she saw her granddaughter Marissa.
"I saw Marissa when Sharon got married,” Pecorarro said. “That's the last time I saw her, cause after that that's the last time, they went to Maine."
The Kennedy family says they are shocked at what happened in Maine.
Marissa's grandfather says he and his second wife, who helped raise Marissa, last saw the little girl just before school started in Maine. He says he is reeling from grief and looking for answers, but with the funeral just two days ago, it may take some time.
"I'm angry, I'm sad, I'm very confused cause I don't know why this happened to this beautiful little girl," Pecorarro said.
Marissa's grandfather, Joe Kennedy, says he would like to see legislation that would give grandparents more legal rights to access information through the schools.
He says current Department of Education confidentiality laws prohibit family members other than parents, from checking in on students.
Kennedy also plans to talk to legislators in Maine about helping to prevent child abuse and provide services for victims.