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Guilty verdict in murder case brings relief for victim's mother
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Christopher Vargas-Zayas looks back into the courtroom gallery Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Hall County Superior Court during his murder trial for the 2018 fatal shooting of Carly Andrews. - photo by Scott Rogers

Sitting just a few rows away from the jury box, Susan Andrews said she felt relieved when she heard the guilty verdict for Christopher Vargas-Zayas.

Vargas-Zayas was accused of shooting Carly Andrews, 26, on Sept. 6, 2018, at the Glenn Cove Apartments in Gainesville.

Susan Andrews, Carly’s mother, said the past three years have been “hell.”

“I was always angry and upset,” Susan Andrews said. “I fought with my husband more than what I should have.”

As she and Carly’s siblings miss her dearly, Susan Andrews said she has kept Carly’s ashes.

“I don’t plan on burying her,” Susan Andrews said. “I want to keep her.”

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Carly Andrews

Vargas-Zayas, 24, of Gainesville, was found guilty Thursday of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault under the Family Violence Act and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden is expected to sentence Vargas-Zayas in mid-December.

Prosecutor Anna Fowler and defense attorney David West made their final arguments to the jury Thursday morning, boiling down to two theories of the man either intentionally shooting Andrews after an argument or accidentally firing while cleaning his 9 mm handgun.

Having heard three days of evidence, the jury entered deliberations after 1:40 p.m. Thursday and returned with a guilty verdict roughly two hours later.

The jury was allowed to consider a lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter.

Fowler told the jury that as Andrews laid dying, Vargas-Zayas was “hatching a plan to get away with murder.” She asked the jury to not be “distracted by ludicrous theories” about what may have happened at the Glenn Cove Apartments that afternoon.

“To believe that he didn’t do this, you have to believe that he is the unluckiest man in the world,” Fowler said.

Vargas-Zayas’ attorney said the prosecution had to prove there are no other viable theories that fit the evidence.

West claimed the science was inconvenient for the state’s case and essential to understanding what happened.

In a crisis, people don’t have time to “think through coming up with all kinds of additional details,” West said.

“In that moment, people tend to say exactly what they’re hearing and sensing,” West said. “They stick to the details because they just happened.”

West reminded the jury about his expert witness, Chris Robinson, who opined that the handgun was unsafe.

Following West’s closing argument, Fowler offered her rebuttal to the points made during the defense’s address to the jury. 

“He snapped. He’d had enough. He wanted to shut her up,” Fowler said of Vargas-Zayas.

West declined to comment when reached Friday, Nov. 19, by The Times regarding Vargas-Zayas and the verdict.

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