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Super Bowl Murders: Defense identifies other man as killer during opening statement

Christopher Vasata is accused of shooting 3 people to death at a Super Bowl party in Jupiter. (WPEC)
Christopher Vasata is accused of shooting 3 people to death at a Super Bowl party in Jupiter. (WPEC)
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Attorneys for the man accused of killing three people during a Super Bowl party in Jupiter told jurors Tuesday the real killer is someone else, not Christopher Vasata.

Christopher Vasata faces three counts of first-degree murder with a firearm, one count of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, felon in possession of a firearm and grand theft auto. His arrest came more than a month after the killings at a rental home along Mohawk Street in Jupiter on the night of Feb. 5, 2017, as the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons played for the Super Bowl title.

Investigators said Vasata shot and killed 26-year-old Sean Henry, 20-year-old Kelli Doherty and 24-year-old Brandi El-Salhy, while also wounding the man who rented the home, Charles Vorpagel. Police found drugs and guns inside the home, which led to federal charges against Vorpagel. He received eight years in prison.

During opening statements, Vasata's defense team said he didn't kill anyone at the party. The fatal gun shots came from, according to Vasata's lawyers, an alleged drug dealer by the name of Luke Kutsukos.

When testimony began, several police officers who were among the first to respond to the scene took the stand. Officer Marinucci, a 19-year veteran of the department, said he saw a man. later identified as Vorpagel, running down the street toward his car. Marinucci testified that Vorpagel said three armed people in masks opened fire on his Super Bowl party and that his friends needed help. Vorpagel told the officer the shooters got into a dark sedan that pulled up to the house and left.

Jurors were shown graphic photos of the crime scene. They included a photo of the bodies near the fire pit in the back yard. Family members left the courtroom before the the images were shown to the jury.

A crime scene investigator with Jupiter Police took the stand late Tuesday afternoon. CSI Tracie McClendon said she took photographs of the victims near the fire pit in the backyard. She also said she located a loaded gun in the pants of Henry.

The judge ended Tuesday's session just before 5 p.m. due to the incoming bad weather.

Vasata is facing the death penalty if convicted. He is one of two men arrested in the case. Marcus Steward is also facing charges. He once spent five years in prison for robbery and battery.

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