A man accused of shooting his girlfriend to death is on video at the police station thoroughly wiping his right hand after he’s informed it will be tested for gunshot residue.
Christopher Vargas-Zayas, 24, is accused of malice murder in the Sept. 6, 2018, shooting of Carly Andrews, 26, at the Glenn Cove Apartments in Gainesville.
Speaking during opening statements Nov. 15 in Vargas-Zayas murder trial, Assistant District Attorney Laura Lukert said Gainesville Police officers spoke with Vargas-Zayas about the shooting and informed him they were going to test him for gunshot residue.
“After they leave the room, the defendant begins a quite thorough campaign to clean his right hand,” Lukert said.
Lukert then showed a brief video of Vargas-Zayas on surveillance footage wiping his hand on his pants and sweater.
The prosecution and defense laid out their overviews of the expected evidence just before noon Monday in Hall County Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden’s courtroom. The jury was selected early last week, and evidence was delayed until Monday due to the defense’s availability for trial.
Much of Lukert’s opening statement focused on the evolution of Vargas-Zayas’ statements to law enforcement from the initial officer on the scene to later interviews with Gainesville Police detectives.
“‘I never put my finger on the trigger. I never shot my woman,’” Lukert said at the beginning of her address to the jury. “Those are words that the defendant yelled at (Gainesville Police Department) investigators during his interview with law enforcement. But that is exactly what he did.”
Lukert said Andrews and Vargas-Zayas were arguing loudly to where a neighbor could hear. The neighbor heard screaming, then “one final scream and then boom, a gunshot,” Lukert said.
A single gunshot went through Andrews’ heart and lung, according to the prosecution.
In the 911 call played for the jury, a man’s voice can be heard shouting in the background after the shooting.
The assistant district attorney walked the jury through the anatomy of the 9 mm Baby Desert Eagle handgun that killed Andrews.
The defendant said Andrews was helping him clean the gun and pulled the trigger, but minutes later he said she was cocking the gun when it discharged, Lukert said.
Addressing the jury, defense attorney David West said he hopes they will recognize the incident as a “terrible, horrible accident.”
West said the prosecution would likely call a slate of witnesses to testify about the couple’s arguments and his client’s intent.
“It doesn’t take much to plant that seed once it starts to grow, so the state has to put this case together in a way to provide a motive for this being intentional because intent is the key to this case,” West said.
Responding to the prosecution’s comments about the differing statements, West said his client consistently said the shooting was accidental while cleaning the gun.
The defense said Vargas-Zayas would go through every emotion during his interview with law enforcement, from concern to confusion, anger and an “absolute breakdown” when he learns that Andrews died.
West said the case will rely on science, claiming the evidence will show his client and Andrews both had gunshot residue on their hands.
“People can say they remember this, they remember that, but at the end of the day, science does not lie,” West said.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16.