BARRE — Markus Austin died about a minute after police say he was shot by Jayveon Caballero; the bullet tore his aorta.
That’s from testimony during Caballero’s murder trial from the medical examiner who performed Austin’s autopsy.
Caballero, 31, of Barre, has been charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Austin in Montpelier in January 2017. He pleaded not guilty to the charge in August 2018, and is being held without bail at Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Thursday marked the fifth day of the trial that started Nov. 7.
According to court records, a witness told police Austin was shot around 4:30 a.m., Jan. 22, 2017, in the parking lot outside his 191 Barre St. apartment in Montpelier. Austin died from a 9 mm gunshot wound to the chest, according to police and court records.
Police said the shooting followed a fight hours prior near a bar in Barre, when witnesses said Austin hit Caballero’s girlfriend, Desiree Cary, who required medical treatment as a result. Officials said Caballero waited outside Austin’s apartment before Austin was shot.
Police said Caballero then fled to Florida, where he was arrested in May 2017 and brought back to Vermont.
The state attorney general’s office has argued Caballero shot Austin while Austin was sitting in his car. Defense attorney Dan Sedon has argued Austin was out of the car when Caballero shot and the bullet ricocheted off Austin’s vehicle, hitting Austin in the chest. He said Caballero did not intend to kill Austin.
Dr. Elizabeth Bundock is the deputy chief medical examiner for the state. Bundock performed Austin’s autopsy a day after he was killed.
She said Austin had an injury under his left eye, an injury to the left side of his lip and injuries to his knees and the backs of his fingers, which she said could have been caused when Austin fell face-first onto the ground. Bundock said the right side of his lip was also injured, but it had appeared to swell so that particular injury likely occurred before Austin was shot.
She said an X-ray showed the bullet was stopped by Austin’s spine. Bundock testified the bullet entered to the right of his sternum, went between a couple ribs and through his aorta, the main artery in the body that moves blood from the heart. She said while the bullet stopped at the spine and didn’t hit the spinal cord, the shockwave from the bullet hitting bone caused the spine to bruise.
That spine bruise, combined with reduced blood flow to the brain from the torn artery, would have caused Austin to suffer impaired motor function, she said. Bundock said she didn’t know how quickly Austin would have lost motor function, noting it could have been immediate or delayed by a few seconds. That would explain why Austin’s body was found right next to the driver’s side of his car.
Bundock said the bullet entered Austin’s body and moved left a little over an inch and a half and down ¾ of an inch.
The bullet also went through Austin’s lung so blood flowed into there from the artery. Bundock said there was blood in Austin’s airway, which is consistent with police reports stating the blood found on the scene came from Austin’s nose and mouth, and that there was no blood from the wound itself.
She said Austin died quickly, likely in about a minute, and he would have been unconscious for half of that time.
The jury also heard more testimony about what happened before the shooting.
Lyly Tran was at Gusto’s the night of the shooting. Tran said she was leaving the bar after it closed and saw a fight taking place involving people from the bar. She said she saw Cary, whom she described as an acquaintance, on the ground, and ran over to her and tried to stop the fight. She said Cary then drove Tran, Caballero and a friend to Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin so Cary could get treatment.
Tran said the atmosphere in the car going to the hospital was “adrenaline strung,” but things calmed down at the hospital. She said Caballero was pacing around the waiting room and was on and off his cellphone.
She said Cary had given her the car keys and was told not to give the keys to Caballero. She described Caballero as “adamant” and repeatedly asked her for the keys, but she wouldn’t give them to him. After a while she said Cary gave her permission to give Caballero the keys, so she drove herself home with Caballero and the friend and Caballero took off in the car alone.
The jury also heard testimony from experts about ballistics; they were told the bullet casing found at the scene matched bullets found by police at Caballero’s apartment in Barre Town.
The trial is expected to continue today (Friday), starting with testimony from Cary.