RUTLAND -- Prosecutors used seven witnesses Tuesday to build upon their case against a Massachusetts man they say regularly sold drugs in Windham County and killed a woman he believed had stolen thousands of dollars worth of narcotics from him in 2011.
Assistant U. S. Attorneys Joseph Perella and Paul Van de Graaf examined one bail bondsman, three state troopers, a confidential informant and two other people throughout the day during the trial of Frank Caraballo, who is accused of drug crimes and the murder of Melissa Barratt. Opening arguments were delivered in U.S. District Court on Monday.
Caraballo, 31, of Holyoke, Mass. , is accused of shooting and killing Barratt, who sold narcotics for him, with a single gunshot to the back of the head in the woods of Dummerston on July 29, 2011, after not being able to find a certain amount of drugs he kept in a safe. The defendant, wearing a long-sleeved checkered shirt, sat silent the whole day and appeared emotionless. He is being represented by attorneys Mark Kaplan and Natasha Sen. The first witness was Edward Angelillo, a Farmington, Conn. , resident who is the co-owner of a bail bond company. Under oath, he testified that he first met with Caraballo in April 2011 to discuss bailing Caraballo’s brother, Michael Caraballo, out of jail. Angelillo said he and his business partner met Frank Caraballo at a neutral place off Exit 7 of Interstate 91 to be led to a property Caraballo was interested in using as collateral for a bond for the release of his brother.
Angelillo said he was led to a trailer and he and his business partner told Caraballo it would not be good enough for collateral. He said he then got a call from Caraballo on June 1, 2011, because Caraballo wanted to revoke a $10,000 bond for Barratt. He said Caraballo had paid 10 percent ($1,000) and $1,500 in collateral.
As a condition of the bond, Angelillo required Barratt to call to check in with him every Friday evening. One day, according to Angelillo, Caraballo called him and was "pretty fired up." "He said he didn’t know where she was and that he was going to kill her," Angelillo testified, adding that Caraballo used a lot of expletives during the phone conversation. "The way it was said, I didn’t take it literally, but that’s what he said to me." After Barratt failed to check in with him and he had not received any replies to repeated text messages, Angelillo said he faxed a document to a court clerk, requesting to have the bond revoked. A day or two later, he said, a woman called back to tell him that was not possible because Barratt had been murdered. Prosecutors then called Vermont State Trooper Steven Hean to the stand. Hean explained several instances of using a Brattleboro native as a confidential informant for "controlled buys" of drugs from Caraballo or his associates. A controlled buy, he said, is when an informant is paid to purchase drugs from a dealer in order to get them off the street and acquire information.
These controlled buys - of powered and crack cocaine - occurred in Brattleboro. Jurors and the public heard audio recordings of each phone call the informant made to arrange the buys.
After VSP Det. Sgt. Daniel Trudeau, who supervises a drug task force in southeastern Vermont, gave testimony, Ben Therrien was called to the stand.
Though he now works for the Massachusetts State Police, he was once employed by the VSP. Jurors then watched a few videos he secretly shot of the informant getting drugs from Caraballo’s associates in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant on Putney Road.
The final witness of the day was Kirstin Waterman, who testified that she lived with Caraballo in a Putney apartment for two years, starting in January 2011. She said she had a relationship with Michael Caraballo and sold drugs for Frank Caraballo every day she lived with him. Waterman, who never made eye contact with Caraballo and started to tear up, explained that Frank Caraballo kept drugs and cash in a rectangular safe in the apartment.
She told the court Frank Caraballo eventually reduced her cut of the drug money and explained to her he needed it to bail out his brother.
Waterman admitted to having earlier pleaded guilty to drug charges and faces a maximum sentence of 10 to 40 years. She said she agreed to testify in hopes of receiving a reduced sentence.
The case went into recess at 4:30 p.m. and was to resume Wednesday.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com