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Closing arguments to begin Thursday in Jupiter triple murder trial of Christopher Vasata

Christopher Vasata
Posted at 7:51 AM, Jun 19, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Jurors in the Christopher Vasata trial are now hours away from hearing closing arguments and deliberating. Vasata is a suspect in the Jupiter shooting on Mohawk Street that killed three people on Super Bowl Sunday in 2017.

On Wednesday, Vasata's defense attorneys called only one witness, a Jupiter police digital forensic examiner who extracted data from cell phones in the case.

Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey has placed a strong emphasis on the host of the party on the night of the shooting, Charles Vorpagel, and his drug dealing business.

Jurors learned through testimony that Vorpagel and Vasata knew each other because they both sold guns and drugs.

Ramsey had Detective Paul Harrington go through text messages extracted from Vorpagel's phone, showing how he mailed drugs and that he was looking for someone who robbed his "partner's" house.

"There's a conversation with an individual named Kyle in which Mr. Vorpagel sends a text to Kyle and says to him, 'I mailed 60 pounds from Michigan to my partner's house and yesterday somebody went into his house while he was at work and stole all of the indoor cameras and modems,'" said Ramsey as she read the text message allegedly from Vorpagel. "'And they stole 600 xanax and 600 pounds from me.'"

In cross-examination, prosecutor Jill Richstone shifted the focus back to Vasata. She asked the detective to go over calls and text messages between Vasata and a second suspect in the shooting, Marcus Steward, just hours before the shooting took place.

"So Marcus sent Chris Vasata a message saying, 'On my way now,'" said Richstone.

The judge also gave jurors instructions Wednesday. They were told if they feel the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Vasata is guilty of the first-degree murder counts, they can still find him guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

After closing arguments Thursday, two alternate jurors will be released and 12 will begin to deliberate.

Jurors are considering the evidence presented by the state to prove the first-degree murder charges for the deaths of Sean Henry, Brandi El-Salhy, and Kelli Doherty.

There is also a charge of attempted first-degree murder against Vasata for Vorpagel, who said he ran when shots were fired. Vasata is also charged with grand theft auto in connection to Henry's car which was stolen from the driveway and was the same car deputies saw Vasata get dropped off from after the shooting.

"In considering the evidence you should consider the possibility that although the evidence may not convince you that the defendant committed the main crimes of which he's accused, there may be evidence that he committed other acts that would constitute a lesser included crime or crimes," said Judge Joseph Marx on Wednesday.

Jurors will get to consider lesser charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter for the first-degree murder charges, and attempted second-degree murder and aggravated assault with a firearm for the attempted first-degree murder charge. There is no lesser for the grand theft auto charge.

Closing arguments begin Thursday at 8:30 a.m.