Joshua Makhanda-Lopez
Joshua Makhanda-Lopez
RUTLAND -- A former associate of Frank Caraballo who helped put the drug dealer behind bars was sentenced to seven years in prison on two conspiracy charges.

Joshua Makhanda-Lopez, who appeared in U.S. District Court Monday, will serve 84 months in federal prison, with four months of supervised release to follow, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

The sentence is part of a plea deal for his testimony against Caraballo, who was accused of killing Melissa Barratt and was found guilty on all but one of the charges against him in October.

In late September, Caraballo was found guilty in federal court of causing the death of Melissa Barratt, 31, of Brattleboro. Her body was found in the woods on the side of East West Road in Dummerston on July 29, 2011.

Caraballo is awaiting sentencing, but his attorneys have filed a motion to have his conviction overturned, arguing that the jury didn't find him or anyone else guilty of actually pulling the trigger of the gun that was used to kill Barratt. Caraballo is currently serving a 16-year sentence for selling illegal drugs in Vermont.

Makhanda-Lopez, who testified on the stand that he was present when Caraballo killed Barratt, had previously told the jury that he watched as Caraballo shot Barratt in the head. However, the defense cast enough doubt on the motivations for his testimony that the jury didn't believe him beyond a reasonable doubt, though they were convinced that Caraballo somehow caused her death.