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State rests in Jupiter triple murder trial, defense to present its case Wednesday

Posted at 7:15 AM, Jun 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-18 18:47:23-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The state has rested its case in the Christopher Vasata murder trial. On Wednesday, Vasata’s defense team is expected to call one witness from the Jupiter Police Department.

Vasata is accused of shooting and killing three people at a Jupiter home on Mohawk Street on Feb. 5, 2017. He's also accused of attempted first-degree murder for trying to kill the host of the party on Super Bowl Sunday.

After the shooting, two Palm Beach County deputies saw Vasata being dropped off next to a BMW parked in the Paseos neighborhood near the area where the shooting took place. Deputies said Vasata was shot. Since then, he’s told police he was hanging out at Charles Vorpagel’s house and was shot there.

On Tuesday, jurors saw video evidence for the first time during the trial. Surveillance video from a home in the Paseos neighborhood showed a dark colored car police believe to be the BMW pull in and park. Some time later a speeding car, they believe is the Honda Vasata and Marcus Steward took from the driveway of the Mohawk home, pulls in. Two deputies followed the car in the video.

Jupiter police lead detective on the case Danielle Hirsch was questioned by prosecutor Jill Richstone about what Vasata told her at the hospital.

“He said he was at his friend Charlie’s house and he was sitting around a fire pit. He was shot from behind. He said at some point he felt himself being dragged away and put into a car and he was dropped off,” said Detective Hirsch.

Detective Hirsch said Vasata became a person of interest after that interview because Vorpagel was also interviewed at the hospital by a detective and he told her that Vasata was not a guest at his home that night. Vorpagel said the only people sitting around the fire pit with him before masked gunmen showed up were the victims Sean Henry, Brandi El-Salhy, and Kelli Doherty.

“I asked [Vasata] if he knew who shot him, he said he didn’t see the shooter. I asked him if his friends were the one who put him in the car and he said he didn’t know,” said Detective Hirsch.

A deputy found a Glock magazine in Vasata’s pocket and a loose bullet that matched 40-caliber bullets found in the BMW he was dropped off at. Detectives found Vasata’s driver’s license inside the BMW.

Public defender Elizabeth Ramsey questioned the lead detective about a bomb found in Vorpagel’s home. The defense team has taken advantage of any opportunity to show jurors Vorpagel is an unreliable witness. While Detective Hirsch was on the stand, Vasata’s attorney showed pictures again of drugs found inside the home and then questioned the detective about why officers had to evacuate the home in the middle of the investigation.

“There was a, what we felt, was a bomb and we had to call the bomb squad from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to find out it was a working bomb,” said Detective Hirsch.

The detective said Vorpagel admitted to building the bomb.

Jurors also saw some emotion on the stand Tuesday from a witness. El-Salhy’s sister, Deane Marie Contri, was called to testify just to confirm the car her sister was driving the night of the shooting.

The prosecutor asked her if she is Brandi El-Salhy’s sister, Contri answered with a brief pause holding back some emotion, “She is, she was.”

Attorneys expect to begin closing arguments on Thursday.