Fed won't seek death penalty for Caraballo

BRATTLEBORO -- Prosecutors told a judge in federal court in Rutland they will not seek the death penalty against Frank Caraballo, who has been implicated in the shooting death of Brattleboro resident Melissa Barratt in July 2011.

Instead, Caraballo will face life in prison without the possibility of release if found guilty during a trial, which has yet to be scheduled.

And though Caraballo, 31, formerly of Holyoke, Mass., has been charged with being a felon in possession of three firearms, following the 45-minute hearing, Caraballo's defense counsel, Mark Kaplan, told the Reformer no gun has been entered into evidence by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont.

Kaplan did confirm, however, that a shell casing and a bullet had been entered into evidence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Van De Graaf had no comment on what evidence had or had not been entered into the record.

During the hearing, Kaplan told Federal District Court Judge Christina Reiss that though he was in the process of reviewing 2,500 pages of written discovery and 40 hours of recorded jailhouse telephone conversations between Caraballo and unnamed parties, he was still missing one crucial piece of evidence - any police cruiser videos that might have been recorded during Caraballo's arrest on July 29, 2011.

Van De Graaf told Reiss that his office was in the process of determining whether any cruiser video existed, and that Caraballo's defense team, consisting of Kaplan and Natasha Sen, would receive copies if any are discovered.

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 were 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.

Neither Van De Graaf nor Kaplan would discuss whether the identity of "the boss" has been determined.

Caraballo 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.

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.


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