BRATTLEBORO -- A witness in a murder trial who testified he traded a handgun for drugs a few weeks before Melissa Barratt was shot and killed in 2011 was sentenced to 58 months in a federal prison on Oct. 24.
Prior to testifying in late September, Tom Parrott, 33, of Putney, pleaded guilty to one count of possessing a Glock 17 9mm pistol that had been shipped and transported in interstate commerce. He had also pleaded guilty to one count of cocaine distribution.
In the early summer of 2011, Parrott purchased on a number of occasions crack cocaine from Frank Caraballo, according to a statement of facts filed in May 2012 by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont with the U.S. District Court.
Caraballo, 31, of Holyoke, Mass., was accused of killing Barratt in July 2011 because he suspected her of stealing a safe full of drugs from him. Barratt had been using cocaine and dealing drugs for Caraballo, with whom she had an intimate relationship, according to court documents. Barratt was found dead in a wooded area off East West Road in Dummerston on July 29, 2011. Prosecutors presented evidence that she was executed by a single gunshot to the head.
On Oct. 2, after a two-week trial, a jury found Caraballo guilty of several of the charges filed against him. Though jurors found him guilty of causing Barratt's death, they could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he actually pulled the trigger. Caraballo was also found guilty of conspiracy to distribute more than 28 grams of heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine and of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The jury found him not guilty of distributing more than 280 grams of drugs. He is awaiting sentencing.
In July 2011, Michael Foley, who was identified in court documents as a friend of Parrott's, approached Parrott about finding a buyer for a stolen Glock 9 handgun. During the trial, Parrott testified that he offered the gun to Caraballo, and a few days later they met in the parking lot of the Hannaford Supermarket on Putney Road in Brattleboro to trade the gun for crack cocaine.
Prior to the trade, noted court documents, Parrott had previously been convicted in Windham County Superior Court, Criminal Division, in 2008, of possessing more than 2.5 grams of cocaine.
Though investigators never found the weapon that was used to kill Barratt, a forensic firearms specialist testified during Caraballo's trial that the bullet fragments taken from Barratt's body and the casing left at the scene were consistent with bullets fired from a Glock or a Smith & Wesson designed to look like a Glock.
On Oct. 24, Parrott was sentenced to 58 months on each of the two counts, to run concurrent to each other and with any undischarged sentence imposed on him by the state of Vermont. Upon release, Parrott will be subject to supervised release for three years. He will get credit for time served. He has been in prison since early 2012.
A number of other witnesses for the prosecution are awaiting sentencing on various charges, including that they conspired with Caraballo to distribute heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine. One of those witnesses includes Joshua Makhanda-Lopez, who testified during the trial that Caraballo killed Barratt.
On Oct. 23, Chrisanna Gagne, 23, of Keene, N.H., who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine with Caraballo's brother, Michael Caraballo, was sentenced to a prison term of 32 months to be followed by four years of supervised release. In October of 2012, he was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He had also been charged with participating in a drive-by shooting in Brattleboro in which no one was injured. That charge was dropped when he agreed to plead guilty to drug distribution.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.