Sunday May 27, 2012

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) -- Federal charges that carry a possible death penalty could be filed against a Massa chu setts man suspected of killing a woman during a drug deal in Dum mers ton last summer, federal prosecutors say in court documents.

Frank Caraballo, 28, of Holyoke, Mass., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Rut land to charges he distributed cocaine in the Brattleboro area in June and July of last year.

There was no plea agreement in place when Caraballo entered the plea, and federal prosecutors say they are reserving the right to file additional charges stemming from the death of Melissa Barratt, 31, of Brattleboro, who was forced from a friend’s house on July 29, 2011, and brought to a wooded area in Dummerston where she was shot and killed.

Caraballo and his co-defendant, 22-year-old Joshua Mak handa-Lopez, were charged by the federal government in a six-count indictment, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Per ella moved to dismiss a charge of conspiracy to distribute

"The government is continuing to actively investigate whe ther to bring additional charges involving drugs and guns, including the use of a firearm to murder someone in relation to a drug trafficking crime," As sist ant U.S. Attor ney Joe Perella wrote in his motion to dismiss a separate count against Caraballo. "This of fense is po tentially punishable by death or life imprisonment."

Vermont does not have a death penalty. Filing a charge that carries a possible federal death sentence does not mean prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

Caraballo was initially charged in state court with second-degree murder in the death of Barratt. The state dismissed the murder charges after the federal government decided to prosecute the case.

Vermont prosecutors have said they could re-file state murder charges if needed.