Records: Drugs led to triple killings
Turf war appears to be cause of Super Bowl night slayings in Jupiter.
JUPITER — Drugs were at the center of the fatal shootings of three young people in Jupiter on Super Bowl Sunday, according to more than 1,000 pages of court documents released to The Palm Beach Post this week.
Whose drugs or turf were fought over that night and who fired the AK-47 assault rifle and the handgun that killed Kelli J. Doherty, Sean P. Henry and Brandi El-Salhy are still unclear more than eight months later.
Doherty, 20, of Tequesta; Henry, 25, of Jupiter; and El-Salhy, 24, of Gainesville were shot and killed Feb. 5. Police said the three were at a party at the rented Mohawk Street home where Charles Vorpagel was living. Vorpagel survived the shooting and was later charged in federal court over the dozens of guns and drugs found throughout his home.
Christopher Vasata of Jupiter, who was shot twice that night and found in the road just a few streets away from the crime scene by a parked BMW, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. In the newly released documents, Vasata told a fellow inmate that he and others went to rob those at the home that night but “his partner got trigger-happy and so they had to shoot everyone there.”
Though Vasata, 25, is the only
one in custody, Jupiter police have identified at least two other men — both with long arrest histories for drugs and violence, including homicide — whose belongings and DNA were found in the BMW. The Palm Beach Post is not naming any of the others under investigation because they have not been charged in the fatal shootings.
The documents released this week by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office — which include interviews, tips and accounts of the investigations by Jupiter police and the FBI — provide insight into the brutality of the crime scene, the many leads police followed in the days after the shooting, and the pointing of fingers and changing of stories between Vasata and Vorpagel as they both sit behind bars.
Doherty, El-Salhy, Henry and Vorpagel were sitting around a fire pit in the backyard at about 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 5 when neighbors said they heard what sounded like firecrackers ring out in the neighborhood, which sits north of Toney Penna Drive between Maplewood Drive and Military Trail.
Vorpagel, 27, told police at least three masked and gloved people entered the backyard and allegedly said, “Pay what you owe, (expletive).” He told police one of the shooters had gold teeth because he saw them reflect the fire. Casings and bullet fragments from the AK-47 and the handgun appeared throughout the backyard the following morning.
Investigators found Doherty’s body sitting in one of the seats near the fire pit, her eyes still open, with a cigarette between her fingers and one of her arms nearly torn off by rounds from the AK-47. El-Salhy was also dead. Her head was found partially in the fire pit. She had been shot in the chest. Henry’s body was found face down, a cigarette still held between his fingers and two bullets in the back of his head. A medical examiner said those two shots were not from a high-powered weapon.
Police believe Vasata also was shot in the backyard, but it’s unclear why, according to the documents. Vasata told police he was there for a Super Bowl party and that he was sitting with the others when he was shot. Vorpagel said not only was Vasata not at his house or invited over that night, but Vorpagel wasn’t even hosting a Super Bowl party. He didn’t have cable TV to watch the game.
Vasata told police he was dragged to a car following the shooting, then pushed out of car into the roadway in Paseos, a neighborhood of single-family homes a few streets south of the shooting scene..
It’s still unclear who shot Vasata. Vorpagel told investigators he thought it might have been Henry, who had a gun on him that night. When investigators examined Henry’s body, a revolver was found tucked into his waistband, according to the court documents. Police wrote that the gun was loaded, but did not appear to have been fired.
In front of the home, Vorpagel told investigators that Henry’s car, a Honda, was missing.
After the sun rose Monday morning, police found two blood spots by the backyard pool at the Mohawk Street house. A BMW was parked in front of the house. Inside it were items belonging to Vasata and two other men, including phones, business cards, guns and ammunition. The car was rented to Vasata by another man police have investigated, according to the court documents.
Surveillance-camera footage from homes in the area from that Sunday night shows a car drive by Vorpagel’s home at 10:32 p.m. and a minute later at least one person was standing in the driveway by the Honda, which then immediately left the area. About 10 minutes later, a car matching the Honda’s description is seen on footage leaving Vasata in the roadway.
Eventually, Henry’s Honda was found abandoned along Interstate 95 near Northlake Boulevard. Inside the car was blood and a glove. Nearby were an AK-47, work gloves, a revolver and a hoodie with keys in the pocket that were later determined to be for the BMW found in front of the Mohawk Street house, police records show.
Tips came in from all over, according to the court documents. One to the FBI suggested the deaths were connected to the MS-13 gang. Another said one of the women’s ex-boyfriends had something to do with it. But the name that kept coming up the most was the man who had “rented” the BMW to Vasata.
From his hospital bed during the following days — where he was recovering from wounds caused by bullets that had entered through his buttocks and exited through his waist and scrotum, respectively — Vasata spoke candidly with officers assigned to watch him at his bedside. Sometimes it was about the nurses, other times about sports and eventually about the fatal shooting.
One time he said he was looking at heaven and that he just killed three people, but then later claimed he didn’t say it.
“I’m looking at death row, a needle in my arm. I’m looking at least at (three) life sentences. I’m laying here and I haven’t even started my punishment,” the documents state.
At one point, he even asked one of the officers if he could take a 15-year plea deal. Another time, he said he’s “dealt with cops enough” to know not to say anything. Vasata had multiple prior arrests on drug charges before the night of the shooting.
“I’ve probably said too much already,” Vasata said, according to court documents.
In each of his conversations, Vasata changed his reason for being at Vorpagel’s home, how he got there and what he remembered.
In a recorded jail conversation with his girlfriend, Vasata told her he is being framed. But he also told a fellow inmate that what happened that night just went wrong: Vasata said he and the others involved were supposed to rob the residents and leave, but then shots were fired and three people were killed.
In that conversation, he claimed Vorpagel was cutting into his drug business. Authorities found marijuana and Xanax tablets prepared for sale at the Mohawk Street house when they arrested Vorpagel in February, along with six guns, including an assault rifle and a loaded semi-automatic pistol.
Vasata said Vorpagel had pulled out a gun that Sunday night and that’s when the shooting started. Yet documents show Vorpagel’s hands were tested for gun-powder residue at a hospital and came back negative.
The other men
Many of the tips that came in to Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County named one person in particular who was connected back to the scene that night and even allegedly was at Vorpagel’s house the night before the shooting. His business card was found in the BMW he had “rented” to Vasata.
During interviews, Vorpagel said Vasata was at his home with Henry on Saturday, the day before the shootings. Vorpagel told police he and Henry had sold drugs together through the years and bought some cocaine from Vasata on Friday. Henry has no arrests, according to Palm Beach County court records.
In another interview, Vorpagel said he “couldn’t imagine who would want to kill (Henry.) (Henry) was a churchgoer and just got back from Haiti,” where he had been on a mission trip.
On the Saturday before the shooting, Vorpagel said the group talked about killing another man who was “ripping people off ” — the same man who “rented” the BMW to Vasata.
“Vorpagel said he is cordial with the other drug dealers in the area and there were not any turf wars; however, with (name) robbing everyone, it was hurting their drug supply,” police wrote in their report.
The other person whose belongings were found in the BMW had been previously arrested for homicide but the charges were never filed, according to court records. He was arrested a few months after the Jupiter slayings for obstruction when he tried to stop police from carrying out a warrant for his DNA. His DNA matched one of the gloves outside of the Honda on I-95, according to the report.
It’s unclear if either of the men will be arrested in the triple homicide.
Vasata told an inmate Vorpagel was cutting into his drug business.
Chris Vasata has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.