DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Vermont

For Immediate Release

Friday, October 31, 2014
Tristram J. Coffin
, United States Attorney
Contact: Public Affairs Office

Holyoke, Massachusetts Man, Sentenced to 40 Years Imprisonment for the Murder of Melissa Barratt and Drug Distribution Conspiracy

The United States Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont stated today that Chief Judge Christina Reiss in U.S. District Court in Burlington sentenced Frank Caraballo, 32, of Holyoke, Massachusetts, to 40 years imprisonment on his conviction for firearm and drug conspiracy charges, including a firearm charge relating to the murder of Melissa Barratt. The United States sought a term of life imprisonment and argued that such a term was fair and just sentence for Caraballo’s execution style murder of Melissa Barratt, who was 32 at the time. Chief Judge Reiss also sentenced Caraballo to a lifetime of supervised release which will follow Caraballo’s service of the 40-year term of imprisonment.

Melissa Barratt's body was discovered in a wooded area off East West Road in Dummerston, Vermont on July 29, 2011. Caraballo was eventually charged in federal court with various drug and firearm offenses, including using a firearm during a drug trafficking offense and causing the murder of Melissa Barratt. The drug conspiracy charge involved crack cocaine, cocaine powder, and heroin. According to witness testimony at trial, immediately after Caraballo was released from jail in Hampden County Massachusetts in mid-March 2011 and continuing to July 29, 2011, when he was arrested by Vermont State Police, Caraballo regularly traveled from Holyoke, Massachusetts to southern Vermont with substantial amounts of narcotics and distributed them. Melissa Barratt assisted Caraballo in the sale of some of these drugs. On July 28, 2011, Caraballo accused Barratt of stealing a significant amount of drugs from his room at the Super 8 motel in Brattleboro. When Barratt did not return the drugs, Caraballo took her to Dummerston and shot her in the head.

After a three week trial beginning in mid-September 2013, the jury convicted Caraballo on the firearm and drug conspiracy counts. Though the jury found that Caraballo caused the death of Melissa Barratt, they did not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Caraballo discharged the weapon that caused Barratt’s death. This distinction, however, did not change the maximum sentence of life that Caraballo could potentially receive. In its sentencing memorandum, the government argued that Caraballo was an “unrepentant criminal” who “deserves life for a cold blooded murder while being a career drug trafficker.”

This case was jointly investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”), the Vermont State Police, and the Southeast Vermont Drug Task Force. The United States Attorney commends the exemplary work of the state and federal law enforcement agencies jointly investigating this matter. For example, the ATF played a critical role in investigating and successfully prosecuting the firearm offenses, which included the murder and two drug-for-gun trades. ATF diligently searched records of multiple gun stores in the area and eventually identified multiple firearms obtained by Caraballo in drug-for-gun trades as well as the individuals involved in the trades. The firearms included: (1) a Glock 9mm that was eventually used in the murder; and, (2) a .357 Desert Eagle handgun. Three of the individuals involved in trading these firearms to Caraballo for narcotics were prosecuted and convicted. Simultaneous with ATF’s work, the Vermont State Police continued to develop strong evidence supporting both the murder and drug conspiracy charges.

In addition, the United States Attorney stated that the investigation was greatly facilitated by the assistance of the office of Windham County State=s Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver and Deputy State’s Attorney Steven Brown.

The United States is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Van de Graaf and Joseph Perella. Caraballo is represented by Mark Kaplan, Esq. of Burlington and Natasha Sen, Esq. of Brandon.


Boston Field Division