NEW YORK CITY — A man convicted of causing the death of a Brattleboro woman in 2011 had his sentence reduction appeal denied by United States Court of Appeals in New York City on Thursday.
Frank Caraballo, who represented himself in the appeal, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison after being found guilty of drug and firearms related offenses, including possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime with death by murder resulting.
On July 29, 2011, the body of Melissa Barratt, 31, was discovered in a wooded area off East West Road in Dummerston.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont, Caraballo regularly traveled from Holyoke, Mass., to Southern Vermont with substantial amounts of narcotics and distributed them.
According to testimony given during his 2013 trial, Barratt assisted Caraballo in the sale of some of these drugs.
The day before her body was discovered, Caraballo accused Barratt of stealing drugs from his room at a local motel in Brattleboro. When Barratt did not return the drugs, Caraballo took her to Dummerston and shot her in the head, contended prosecutors.
Though the jury found that Caraballo caused the death of Barratt, they did not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Caraballo actually discharged the weapon that caused Barratt’s death.
Since the guilty verdict, Caraballo has argued for reconsideration and a reduction of his sentence, contending he received inadequate representation. Decisions rendered by judges in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont denied those appeals, so Caraballo took his case to the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City.
Caraballo argued that the district court erred “by considering what he describes as ‘circumstantial evidence’ — including a recorded telephone call in which ... Caraballo said that ‘if he got what he deserved in this case, it would be the death penalty,’” states the decision issued by the Court of Appeals. “Caraballo also argues that his various health issues and the potential for an infectious outbreak at his prison facility put him at risk of suffering serious complications from COVID-19.”
While Caraballo’s health issues qualify as an extraordinary and compelling reason for reducing his sentence, the district court pointed out that “[a] young woman was murdered ... execution style and left in the woods.”
The district court also noted that Caraballo was in the “highest criminal history category” and posed an extreme risk to the public.
“Upon review of the record, we conclude that the District Court adequately considered the ... factors and did not abuse its discretion in denying his motions,” states the decision from the Court of Appeals. “We have considered Caraballo’s remaining arguments and conclude that they are without merit.”
Caraballo, now 40, still has 29 years of his sentence to serve.