WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — Crucial DNA evidence took center stage Friday in the trial of one of the men accused of the 2017 triple murder at a Super Bowl party in Jupiter.
Going item by item, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office crime lab scientist Alyse Yacovone-Margetts revealed her DNA findings.
She linked Christopher Vasata, the man on trial, and co-defendant Marcus Steward, to multiple items from the crime scenes, including on guns and gloves. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for both men.
The crime is unimaginable: Three young people gathered Super Bowl night, each shot multiple times.
Brandi El Salhy, 24, Kelli Doherty, 20 and Sean Henry, 26, all died from their wounds.
Police said they found Vasata dropped off at his car in a nearby neighborhood. He had also been shot in the rear.
Officers said Vasata had bullets matching those used in the killings, both in his pants and in his car.
Prosecutors presented the DNA evidence to provide additional links between Vasata and the crime.
“The wrist area of the gloves was two individuals, Christopher Vasata could not be excluded,” Yacovone-Margetts testified, describing the major DNA contributors on the gloves.
“Swabs from the Glock pistol magazine Vasata being the major profile, with the more rare than 1 in 300 billion individuals, correct?” asked prosecutor Jill Richstone.
“Correct, he cannot be excluded,” Yacovone-Margetts replied.
But the defense worked to raise questions about the evidence.
“One of the scenarios that is possible is that Mr. Vasata’s DNA is transferred to an item that he never touches, due to Mr. Steward touching it,” Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey posed to the analyst.
“Yes,” Yacovone-Margetts acknowledged.
This week, Vasata’s defense team named a third man as a possible shooter. Earlier testimony confirmed Luke Kutsukos was on detectives’ radar after the crime, but he was never charged.
Prosecutors asked about his DNA.
“Could you include Luke Kutsukos, with his DNA, on any of those items?” prosecutor Richstone queried.
“No,” said Yacovone-Margetts.
But during cross-examination, the defense emphasized DNA comparisons were not possible on some items, so they said Kutsukos could not be ruled out.
The high profile trial will hit a critical point when it resumes on Monday.
That’s when the party host, Charles Vorpagel, is set to testify. Some have called him the star witness.
“So when you talk about Vorpagel, clearly I’m not so sure that I would consider him the star witness,” said former FBI agent Stuart Kaplan, who now practices criminal defense law in Palm Beach Gardens. “The star of this case is what a great job the Jupiter Police Department did in collecting the forensic evidence. We know Vasata had one of the two black gloves on his person. And then later on they discovered the black glove in the Honda."
Victim Sean Henry’s car discovered abandoned hours after the murders on I-95.
“You know, those things are insurmountable, to try to now suggest that Vasata was not involved in the actual shooting,” Kaplan said.
Vorpagel also has credibility issues. He’s serving a federal prison sentence for drug and weapons violations.
During the investigation into the triple murder, police found a stash of multiple kinds of drugs and weapons in Vorpagel’s rented home and he was already a convicted felon.