Thursday December 6, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- A federal grand jury returned two more counts against a man accused of killing a Brattleboro woman in July 2011.

According to documents filed on Wednesday, Frank Caraballo, 31, formerly of Holyoke, Mass., now stands accused of being a felon in possession of firearms -- a Glock 17 9mm pistol, a Desert Eagle .357 pistol and an Intratec Tec-9 9mm semi-automatic pistol.

In another new count, Caraballo stands accused of using the Desert Eagle in furtherance of a conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of crack cocaine.

In August, Caraballo had been charged with conspiracy to distribute the cocaine and killing Melissa Barratt, of Brattleboro, who was 31 at the time of her death.

Frank Caraballo
Frank Caraballo

Barratt's body was discovered in a wooded area off East West Road in Dummerston on July 29, 2011. According to court documents, Caraballo accused Barratt of stealing a large amount of drugs from him. Caraballo, a convicted drug dealer in New York and Massachusetts, and his alleged accomplice Joshua A Makhanda-Lopez, now 24, formerly of Springfield, Mass., found Barratt at a friend's apartment.

Barratt's friend told police she and Barratt where held at gunpoint while Caraballo awaited instructions from a woman he referred to as "the boss" as to whether he was going to kill them. Caraballo and Makhanda-Lopez then forcibly removed Barratt from the apartment and drove her to Dummerston where Caraballo shot her in the head, according to court documents.

Makhanda-Lopez has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute drugs and possession of a firearm in connection with drug distribution and is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

In September 2012, Caraballo was sentenced to 16 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to distributing crack cocaine. Caraballo, when released from prison, must spend the rest of his life on supervised release. However, if he is found guilty of killing Barratt or of being a felon in possession of a firearm, he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Caraballo was initially charged in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division in Brattleboro with second degree murder, but that case was dismissed without prejudice in light of the federal drug and firearms investigation.

According to the documents filed on Wednesday, Caraballo has been convicted of four previous felonies: two counts of attempted sale of a controlled substance in King's County, New York; trafficking of a controlled substance in Hampden County in Massachusetts; and possession with intent to distribute heroin, also in Hampden County.

According to federal statutes, if convicted of selling 280 grams or more of crack cocaine and then if convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, the resulting sentence is mandatory life imprisonment. It is also a mandatory life sentence for using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, such as the killing of Barratt.

Caraballo is scheduled to appear in federal court in Rutland on Dec. 19 for a status conference.

His brother, Michael Caraballo, now 30, also formerly of Holyoke, Mass., was sentenced to 12 years in prison in October, also for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.

According to court documents, in February and March of 2011 Michael Caraballo distributed several grams of crack cocaine and powder cocaine in Brattleboro. In addition, according to court records, on March 16, 2011, in Brattleboro, Michael Caraballo allegedly shot at, and hit, a vehicle containing a drug customer. No one was injured in that shooting.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.