First Murder in Nearly 100 Years Hits Montpelier

Warning: This story contains an actual quote that contains a swear word and a racial epithet which may offend some readers.

by Carla Occaso

MONTPELIER — The community reeled these past two weeks in the wake of an unspeakable murder Jan. 22 at 4:30 a.m. in a parking lot across the railroad tracks from Hunger Mountain Coop. This was the first intentional murder since the 1920s, according to Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos.

According to co-workers, friends and neighbors of the victim, 33-year-old Markus Austin was a kind, compassionate father with a great smile. He left behind a longtime girlfriend and a young son.

Austin, a former basketball player for the Frost Heaves, was originally from White Plains, New York. Union Elementary School’s Physical Education Teacher, Emmanuel Riby-Williams, told The Bridge Austin worked as a one-on-one classroom paraeducator for Washington County Mental Health services with a special needs child.

“He made an impression in my life and in my class with his demeanor. He had a good rapport for the student,” Riby-Williams said. “I have nothing but kind words about Markus.”

Another co-worker, Melissa Jean Andersen, had seen Austin just hours before his death as he went off the second shift and she came on the third shift at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin Jan. 21 at 11 p.m. His death hit her so hard she started a GoFundMe fundraiser (https://www.gofundme.com/3a01lqg) to financially support to his family. “Markus was just a really kind person … He was proud of his son.”

The incident

The below timeline was extracted from two sworn depositions of Detective Sergeant Jacob P. Zorn on file in Vermont Superior Court. Zorn is a detective with the Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit.

It seemed to start out as two friends getting together at a bar but ended in tragedy.

After Austin left work on Jan. 21, he went to a friend’s apartment. Sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., he received a text message from “my boy Jay,” who everyone understood to be Jayveon Caballero, 29, of Barre — originally from Brooklyn, New York. Cabellero asked Austin to join him at Gusto’s Bar on 28 Prospect Street in Barre.

What happened inside the bar is not stated, but by last call, trouble spilled out into the parking lot. One witness told a detective a fight erupted involving multiple people. During the melee, Austin struck Caballero’s girlfriend, Desiree Cary, 22, causing injury. A handgun was also reportedly seen in the hands of a different person. Cary then went to the hospital with Caballero and others. Cary told detectives Austin struck her after she first struck him. Rolando Merced, who went with Caballero and Cary to the hospital, indicated to authorities that Caballero was “upset about Markus punching his girlfriend.”

Meanwhile, after the scuffle, Austin went with two men to an apartment where he hunkered down until around 3:45 to 4 a.m. After a couple of tense hours, Austin returned to Montpelier.

One of the men then attempted to contact Austin, but when it went unanswered, he went to 191 Barre St. only to find Montpelier Police Department there and Austin lying in a pool of blood next to a car that was still running in the parking lot of the apartment complex.

Austin died of a 9 mm gunshot in the torso. It is not known where the gun came from since Caballero is disqualified from owning one after having three previous aggravated assault charges.

A witness called 9-1-1 at 4:30 a.m. The witness told police he heard a male voice say, “Fuck you, nigger,” followed by one gunshot at which point Markus fell to the ground. The shooter fled the scene. Montpelier police called on the Vermont State Police Criminal Division for assistance. Authorities spent Jan. 22 and beyond questioning witnesses, photographing the crime scene and investigating.

Police charged Caballero with Murder in the second degree on Jan. 23.

On Jan. 26, police charged Reginald Jones, 36, with Accessory After The Fact for driving Caballero to a Greyhound Station in White River Junction, purchasing Caballero a bus ticket bound for New York City, and lying to police. Jones did not have a prior record.

U.S. Marshals are actively seeking the suspect, said Washington County State’s Attorney Scott Williams by phone. “It is both easier and harder to hide than most people recognize,” Williams said. “It is a large country.” Williams said if you don’t use a credit card and stay away from obvious places you may be able to go undetected — if you have cash or access to cash. “But usually that dries up. If you are involved in the drug trade … those friendships have a tendency to become fragile pretty quickly. I think an arrest will happen sooner rather than later, but I don’t know.”

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