In a text message sent by Joshua Makhanda Lopez shortly after the alleged murder of Barratt, he wrote: "Sumbody stole $50,000 worth of material frm me n my bro n only ppl round was me my bro n (Barratt) so we had to take care of (it)."
Makhanda Lopez has been accused of driving the vehicle in which Barratt was last seen before her body was found in the woods off of East West Road in Dummerston.
According to court documents, Makhanda Lopez, who witnessed the shooting of Barratt by Caraballo, has accepted a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony. Details of the plea agreement have been sealed by the court.
Between Aug. 30 and Sept. 3, attorneys for the prosecution and for the defense have filed a flurry of motions in anticipation of Caraballo's trial, which is scheduled to begin on Sept. 16 in Rutland.
Those documents pertain to potential evidence and testimony the jury might hear, as well as procedural issues related to jury selection.
"At trial, the government will present various pieces of evidence showing that the defendant's safe containing thousands of dollars in drugs was stolen before the morning of July 28, 2011, by Melissa Barratt," wrote federal prosecutors in a motion to admit statements made and text messages sent by two witnesses. "Early on the morning of July 28, Caraballo went looking for Ms. Barratt, who was found at about 11 that morning in the apartment of (a witness)."
That witness will testify that Caraballo said he believed Barratt had stolen his drugs and that he made threats of violence toward both the witness and Barratt, noted federal prosecutors.
"(The witness) was present in her apartment with the defendant and Ms. Barratt, when the defendant threatened Ms. Barratt and the witness with a loaded gun concerning the theft of his drugs," wrote prosecutors. "The witness will testify that she found the drugs Ms. Barratt had obviously stolen from the defendant ... By the evening, the witness strongly suspected that Ms. Barratt had been killed."
While statements made by Makhanda Lopez and the second witness are considered hearsay, noted the prosecutors, hearsay can be admitted if it falls into the category of an excited utterance or present sense impression, which describes or explains an event or condition made while or immediately after the event or condition.
In other documents filed last week, prosecutors are asking the court to allow them to offer to the jury evidence of Caraballo's prior involvement in a drug distribution conspiracy and that, with Barratt's assistance, robbed a female drug customer in May 2011 at a hotel in Keene, N.H. Prosecutors also hope to introduce evidence they believe links Caraballo to a drive-by shooting committed by his brother, Michael Caraballo, on March 16, 2011. No one was injured in the shooting. Michael Caraballo is currently serving a 12-year sentence after pleading guilty to charges he conspired to distribute crack cocaine. Charges related to the shooting were dropped as part of the plea agreement.
Prosecutors are also asking the court to allow them to introduce evidence that Frank Caraballo, a convicted felon prior to the alleged murder of Barratt, periodically asked drug customers to obtain firearms for him.
While federal evidentiary rules usually exclude the introduction of evidence related to prior bad acts, noted prosecutors, evidence may be admissible if it proves "motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident."
Such evidence can be introduced, noted prosecutors, "if it is necessary to complete the story of the crime on trial."
The prosecution also hopes to admit into evidence statements made by Makhanda Lopez detailing the scene of the alleged murder.
"The credibility of this witness will be attacked and the defense will claim he is fabricating his story," wrote prosecutors. "Evidence that he knew details that only someone involved in the offense would know supports his credibility."
In addition, prosecutors hope to introduce testimony given to a grand jury more than a year ago.
"It is anticipated that some witnesses will be unable to clearly recall their previous testimony. It may well be that other witnesses are reluctant to testify completely against the defendant."
Other evidence the prosecution would like to introduce are recordings of undercover drug transactions, recordings of phone conversations made by Caraballo while incarcerated following his arrest for the murder of Barratt and phone records.
In documents filed by Caraballo's defense team, attorneys are asking the court to prohibit the introduction of certain evidentiary items, including Caraballo's alleged gang affiliation, the position of Barratt's body when it was discovered by police, certain cell phone records and text messages and statements made by Barratt prior to her death.
Statements by other witnesses should be restricted as well because "these witnesses admit to regularly using illegal drugs ... clouding their judgment, memory and thus the reliability of those statements," noted Caraballo's defense team.
Evidence of prior bad acts also should not be admitted, they wrote, because it has "the non-admissible purpose of criminal propensity" and the government has supplied no information as to how the evidence is relevant to the current charges against Caraballo.
"Admitting this evidence would be highly prejudicial because of its remoteness (and) because there is no evidence that Mr. Caraballo's activities in 2010 are linked to his activities in 2011 ..." they wrote.
Caraballo's attorneys hope to introduce into court portions of pre-sentence reports prepared in advance of plea agreements reached with potential witnesses allegedly involved in drug dealing with Caraballo.
"Defendant maintains that if the pre-sentence reports of ... co-conspirators contains exculpatory or impeachment material it would be essential that this information be provided ... for the preparation of his defense."
Caraballo was initially charged in the death of Barratt by the state, but those charges were dropped after the federal government took over the case. He has been indicted on four counts related to Barratt's death -- one for being a felon in possession of firearms, one for using a Desert Eagle .357 in furtherance of a conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of crack cocaine, a third for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and a fourth for killing Barratt. Caraballo is currently serving 16 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in September 2012 to distributing crack cocaine.
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.