BRATTLEBORO -- A man accused of killing a Brattleboro woman in 2011 for stealing drugs from him was sentenced Thursday to more than 16 years in prison for the distribution of crack cocaine.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont, Frank Caraballo, 30, of Holyoke, Mass., must spend the rest of his life on supervised release after the 16-year sentence has been served.
"We are pleased with the sentence," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Perella, who said Caraballo's sentence was "enhanced" because of prior convictions for drug distribution.
In addition to the sentence rendered Thursday, Caraballo could end up spending the rest of his life in prison. He is also facing murder charges for shooting Melissa Barratt, 31, on July 29, 2011, along East West Road in Dummerston.
On Aug. 29, 2012, Caraballo was indicted and pleaded not guilty for using a firearm in a drug distribution conspiracy to murder Barratt. He was also indicted and pleaded not guilty to charges that he was involved in a larger drug conspiracy to distribute heroin cocaine and crack cocaine from March to July 2011.
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 court documents filed in connection with the state case, Caraballo had accused
When Barratt did not return the drugs, Caraballo found her at a friend's house. The friend told police that she and Barratt were held at gunpoint while Caraballo awaited instructions from a woman he referred to as "the boss" as to whether he should kill both of them.
Caraballo and his accomplice, Joshua Makhanda-Lopez, drove Barratt to East West Road, where she was shot in the head and killed, according to court documents.
Makhanda-Lopez pleaded guilty to two federal felony charges for conspiracy to distribute drugs and possession of a firearm in connection with drug distribution. He is scheduled to be sentenced in January 2013.
The Barratt case is being jointly investigated by the Vermont State Police, the Southeast Vermont Drug Task Force, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
The United States Attorney's Office thanked the state and federal law enforcement agencies jointly investigating this matter. In addition, the United States Attorney stated that the investigation was greatly facilitated by the assistance of the office of Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Shriver.
Shriver thanked the U.S. Attorney's Office for offering its assistance in investigating and prosecuting Caraballo.
"I am looking forward to working together on the pending homicide charge," she said.
Shriver also credited Deputy State's Attorney Steve Brown, who was appointed a special U.S. Assistant Attorney during the investigation, for his work on the case.
The United States Attorney emphasized that the murder charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
If Caraballo is convicted on the murder charge, as charged in the indictment, he faces a maximum of life imprisonment. If he is convicted on the drug conspiracy charge, he is subject to a mandatory minimum of 10 years imprisonment, a maximum of life imprisonment, and up to a $10,000,000 fine. If Caraballo is proven to be a career offender, he could be sentenced to life in prison without a possibility of parole.
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.