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Jury hears police interview of defendant in Gainesville murder trial
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Christopher Vargas-Zayas sits in Hall County Superior Court Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, for day one of his murder trial in the 2018 fatal shooting of Carly Andrews. - photo by Scott Rogers

Christopher Vargas-Zayas repeatedly told detectives during questioning that the shooting of his girlfriend was an accident.

He then asked if Carly Andrews, his girlfriend of two years, was still alive.

“She didn’t make it,” Gainesville Police investigator Stephen Johnson said. 

 The exchange was captured as part of a police interview shown during Vargas-Zayas’ murder trial in Hall County Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden’s court Monday, Nov. 15.

Vargas-Zayas faces a charge of malice murder among other counts in Andrews’ death Sept. 6, 2018. 

During opening statements Monday, prosecutors said Vargas-Zayas offered multiple versions of what happened to Andrews, 26, in their Gainesville apartment that afternoon about 2 p.m. His lawyer, David West, said Vargas-Zayas has been consistent in saying it was accidental while cleaning his gun.

During the police interview after the shooting, Johnson tells Vargas-Zayas that they have completed the gunshot residue test on Andrews and that she could not have fired that gun. In reality, that test requires a swabbing kit that is sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for analysis.

“Now I’m going to give you the opportunity to tell me what happened, OK?” Johnson said to Vargas-Zayas. “If it’s an accident, it’s an accident, and that’s fine. But we need to know the truth of what happened today.”

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Carly Andrews

Vargas-Zayas told Johnson he would still allow them to test him for gunshot residue.

The investigators explained to Vargas the forensics gathered at that point, which showed that Andrews was standing in the doorway and the gun was fired from a chair several feet away.

“It’s not hard to get you pissed off. That’s pretty obvious,” said investigator Brad Raper, to which Vargas-Zayas repeatedly denied. “You’ve got a temper, and I think you were fighting with your girlfriend tonight and you got pissed off … and you were trying to scare her, and you screwed up.”

From that point, the interview was considerably more heated between Vargas-Zayas and the two investigators. Vargas-Zayas continued repeating that he never pulled the trigger.

“You shot your girl, Christopher,” Johnson said. “That’s a fact that you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life. You shot Carly.”

Vargas-Zayas still insisted it was an accident.

“The gun went off on the table, and it hit her,” the defendant said. “That’s it. I never pointed it at her. I never shot at her. We can go and ask her. I would never do that to her.”

When Johnson asked if Vargas-Zayas wanted any water, Vargas-Zayas said he wanted to know if Andrews was alive.

Upon learning that Andrews is dead, Vargas-Zayas put his head down on the table and began to sob. A few minutes pass with no words spoken.

“Is Carly really dead?” Vargas-Zayas asked.

“Carly is dead. I’m sorry, but Carly is dead. Carly can’t come back,” Johnson said.

When asked by Assistant District Attorney Anna Fowler why he used deception about the gunshot residue during the interview, Johnson said it was because “portions of his (Vargas-Zayas) story simply were not adding up as far as what he said happened.”

West, the defense lawyer, said Monday during opening arguments that Vargas-Zayas likely would have been afraid after the investigators deceived him about the gunshot residue.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out at that point my client would have arguably been upset and angry to be accused of lying,” West said.

The prosecution continued its slate of law enforcement and investigative witnesses Tuesday, Nov. 16 with GBI assistant medical examiner Dr. Andrew Koopmeiners.

Koopmeiners called the gunshot wound “rapidly fatal.” Though the gunshot would not have immediately killed her, Koopmeiners estimated it would be within “seconds to minutes.”

West asked Koopmeiners to demonstrate the wound track of the gunshot, which moves downward through Andrews’ body.

“So it would be perfectly possible for her to have sustained this injury and moved from the location where she was originally shot?” West asked, and Koopmeiners agreed.

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Christopher Vargas-Zayas enters Hall County Superior Court Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, for day one of his murder trial from the 2018 fatal shooting of Carly Andrews. - photo by Scott Rogers
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