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Prosecutors rest in trial of Gainesville man accused of fatally shooting girlfriend
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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

Prosecutors have rested their case against Christopher Vargas-Zayas, the man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend in September 2018.

Prosecutors brought the last of their witnesses, Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s firearms technical leader Emily Bagwell, to testify on Wednesday about the 9 mm handgun that killed Carly Andrews, 26, at her Gainesville apartment.

Vargas-Zayas elected not to testify.

Vargas-Zayas, 24, is accused of malice murder in the Sept. 6, 2018, shooting of Andrews at the Glenn Cove Apartments on Norton Drive. If convicted, Vargas-Zayas faces a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The case is before Hall County Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden. 

Attorneys for Vargas-Zayas have said the shooting was an accident while he cleaned his gun.  Prosecutors have said Vargas-Zayas offered multiple versions of what happened to Andrews that afternoon about 2 p.m. 

Assistant District Attorney Laura Lukert has said Andrews and Vargas-Zayas were arguing loudly before a neighbor heard screaming, then “one final scream and then boom, a gunshot.”

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Georgia Bureau of Investigation firearms expert Emily Bagwell is questioned by defense attorney David West Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Hall County Superior Court during the Christopher Vargas-Zayas murder trial. - photo by Scott Rogers

Bagwell was asked about abuse testing of the firearm, which is used to determine if it could fire without someone pulling the trigger.

Though the test was not requested, Bagwell said she “practically performed every part of that test apart from dropping it on the ground itself.”

Defense attorney David West brought his own expert witness, private forensics consultant Chris Robinson, a former GBI firearms examiner with decades of experience.

West walked Robinson through a series of hypotheticals including the force needed to pull the trigger.

“If I pull the trigger, that’s 4 pounds. What if I have my finger on the trigger and someone else pulls the gun, is taking it?” West asked.

Robinson said it would divide, possibly in half, the weight needed to pull the trigger.

West’s expert also testified about the gunshot primer particles found on Vargas-Zayas and Andrews, saying Andrews “had a great deal” of gunshot residue on her hands.

West asked about the “firing pin in that weapon (that) could actually strike the cartridge improperly under situations where it is not supposed to do that.”

“And if it did so, it can actually discharge that weapon,” West said.

“It could,” Robinson said.

On cross-examination, Robinson agreed with Lukert’s assertion that Bagwell, who handled, shot and tested the gun, “has a better idea of this firearm” than him.

“I’d be terrified of this gun because it would go off so easy … I just think it’d be totally, this gun is not safe for anybody,” Robinson said

“But it didn’t go off in (Bagwell’s) tests, did it?” Lukert asked.

“It did not.”

Robinson left the stand just before 3 p.m. Wednesday and was the last witness for the defense. The jury was sent home and instructed to return Thursday morning.

Jurors could begin deliberations in the case on Thursday after hearing the closing arguments from both sides and Bearden’s instructions.  

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Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden speaks with assistant district attorney Anna Fowler and defense attorney David West Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Hall County Superior Court during the Christopher Vargas-Zayas murder trial. - photo by Scott Rogers
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