RUTLAND -- A witness who testified at the murder trial of Frank Caraballo in the U.S. District Court in Rutland Tuesday said she saw the accused drive up to the home of Melissa Barratt's friend one day before seeing Caraballo's face on the television news as a suspect in Barratt's murder.
The witness was living on Putney Road at the time and said she saw an expensive car with "silver rims" drive up to the home where Barratt was allegedly staying on Friday, July 29, 2011, the day Barratt was allegedly shot in the woods off of East West Road in Dummerston.
The witness said she saw two men in the car and watched as Barratt's friend came out of the house and talked with the men for about 10 minutes.
The witness admitted to being nosy, and said the following day she recognized the men when the television news showed a photo of Caraballo, 31, of Holyoke, Mass. and of Joshua Makhanda-Lopez who were both considered suspects in Barratt's murder.
"Curiosity got the best of me," she said about her interest in her neighbor. "I saw his face. I was amazed when I saw the pictures on the news."
The Reformer editorial board made a decision to only name people involved in the case against Caraballo who have been charged in federal court and have accepted plea agreements in exchange for testifying. Even though it is a matter of public record, the Reformer, due to safety concerns, will not publish the names of confidential informants or witnesses who have not been charged with a federal crime.
The witness Tuesday said she worked with Barratt's friend and the two lived near each other, close enough, the witness said, that from her porch she could see the interaction between Barratt's friend and the two men in the car.
One of the men got out of the car, the witness said, and she described him as "a heavy, colored man with a limp."
According to court records Barratt was allegedly selling crack cocaine and heroin for Caraballo.
Caraballo is accused of shooting Barratt after he allegedly came to the conclusion that she had stolen a safe full of drugs from him.
In testimony Tuesday a second witness claimed that she helped destroy bags of drugs that the same friend had brought into the house the two women were sharing at the time.
The witness said Barratt's friend had a history of drug abuse, and the witness said she had to ask the friend to leave a few months earlier because she could not pay rent due to her drug use.
On the day of the murder the witness said she spoke on the phone with Barratt's friend, who was upset.
"I could tell by the tone of her voice that there was a lot of fear there," the witness said Tuesday. "She was significantly upset."
The witness said she was talking to the friend on the phone just after Caraballo first showed up looking for Barratt, and she said she told Barratt's friend not to get involved and to not let Barratt stay at the house.
A few days later the witness offered to let Barratt's friend move back in with her, and the friend showed the witness a large black bag filled with drugs.
In court Tuesday the witness said there were hard rocks of different sizes and large and small bags of white powder.
She said the two of them attempted to destroy the drugs, but needed milk and Coca Cola to destroy the hard rocks which were likely crack cocaine.
The bags and remaining drugs were dumped in a trash can near Dunkin' Donuts, the witness said.
The next day Barratt's friend entered the Brattleboro Retreat for drug abuse counseling.
During most of the day Tuesday experts on cell phone technology testified, as prosecutors tried to explain how cell phone records could connect Barratt with Caraballo.
The U.S. Attorneys expect to finish up their case late this week or early next week, after which time Caraballo's team will present their defense.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard @HowardReformer.