MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A suspect in the first murder in Vermont’s capital city in nearly a century pleaded not guilty Monday and was ordered held without bail.
Jayveon Caballero, 30, waved to his supporters when he was brought into a Barre courtroom while wearing a red T-shirt and restrained with chains. He entered a not-guilty plea to second-degree murder in the death of 33-year-old Markus Austin. As he was led out of the courtroom, he said, “I love you,” to the supporters.
Vermont Superior Court Judge John Pacht ordered Caballero held without bail pending another hearing later this week.
Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos has said Austin’s slaying was the first murder in Montpelier since the 1920s, when a woman shot her husband. Montpelier, with about 7,500 residents, is the smallest state capital in the country.
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Caballero was arrested this month in Deltona, Florida, where police say he fled after the Jan. 22 shooting. Austin’s body was found in the parking lot of a Montpelier apartment complex located just under a mile (1.2 kilometers) from the Vermont Statehouse.
Police say Austin was involved in an altercation with Caballero’s girlfriend outside a bar in Barre before he was shot once in the chest several hours later. Caballero then went to White River Junction, where he got on a bus to New York City, authorities said.
Caballero’s supporters, some of whom called themselves the “J Team,” described him as a good man who got caught up in a night that the mother of Caballero’s toddler daughter called a “disaster.”
“We all make mistakes. He’s not a bad person. He’s got the biggest heart in this world,” Shannae Harvin said outside court.
Facos on Monday wouldn’t say how police tracked Caballero to Florida.
“This was a case that certainly shocked all of us,” Facos said. “We threw everything we had it right from the get-go when it occurred. It doesn’t change the character of Montpelier at all.”
This story has been corrected to show Caballero is 30, not 29.