BRATTLEBORO -- A federal grand jury indicted a Massachusetts man in the killing of a local woman during a drug deal in Dummerston last year.
On Wednesday, 30-year-old Frank Caraballo, of Holyoke, Mass., was charged with using a firearm in the murder of Melissa Barratt and in the conspiracy to distribute drugs.
Barratt's body was discovered in a wooded area off East West Road in Dummerston on July 29, 2011. Shortly before the then 31-year-old Barratt, who was living in Brattleboro at the time, was forcibly removed from a friend's house, a witness said Caraballo threatened to kill her.
Court documents state Caraballo accused Barratt of stealing a large amount of drugs from his room at the Super
When Caraballo, a convicted drug dealer in New York and Massachusetts, and his alleged accomplice Joshua A Makhanda-Lopez, 23, of Springfield, Mass., found Barratt at a friend's apartment Caraballo demanded she return the drugs.
According to court documents Barratt's friend told police she and Barratt were held at gun point while Caraballo awaited instructions from a woman he referred to as "the boss" as to whether he was going to kill them.
Eventually Caraballo, Makhanda-Lopez and Barratt left the apartment with Makhanda-Lopez behind the wheel and the other two in the back seat.
Caraballo instructed Makhanda-Lopez to pull over along East West
Barratt never returned.
The indictment alleges Caraballo shot her in the head and returned to the vehicle and told Makhanda-Lopez to drive.
The same day that Caraballo was federally indicted, Makhanda-Lopez pleaded guilty to two federal felony charges. Makhanda-Lopez, who is currently being held and awaiting sentencing, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute drugs and possession of a firearm in connection with drug distribution, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Criminal Chief Paul Van De Graaf told the Reformer.
Makhanda-Lopez is scheduled to be sentenced sometime in January 2013.
Caraballo also is awaiting federal sentencing after he pleaded guilty to five felony counts of cocaine distribution stemming from charges he sold various amounts of the drug in the Brattleboro area in June and July of last year.
He's scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 13 for the five drug charges.
Originally both Caraballo and Makhanda-Lopez were charged in Windham County but the charges were dropped when federal prosecutors decided to prosecute the case.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney Tristram Coffin said the federal indictment was brought forth by the "exemplary work of the state and federal law enforcement agencies jointly investigating this matter."
Coffin stated the investigation was "greatly facilitated" by the assistance of the office of the Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Shriver. He pointed specifically to the work of Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown, who was appointed to work on the federal prosecution with the U.S. Attorney's office.
Josh Stilts can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.