BALLSTON SPA, NY – A New York man told a jury June 4 that he spent two nights trying to cover up the 2019 killing of a woman he beat to death with a baseball bat and sledgehammer at an upstate deli where she had been an employee.
James Duffy, who has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, said Greek immigrant deli owner George Kakavelos paid him $800 to kill Allyzibeth Lamont because the 22-year-old had complained to the state Department of Labor about his practice of paying employees off the books.
The Daily Gazette reports Duffy testified for more than four hours on June 4 at Saratoga County Court about their efforts to conceal Lamont's death, including burying her in a shallow grave in the town of Malta, 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Johnstown.
Duffy is to be sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in exchange for testifying against Kakavelos, the newspaper reported.
Kakavelos' defense attorney, Kevin O'Brien, called the state's case a "disaster," adding Lamont's death was a "heinous crime that was orchestrated and done solely by James Duffy."
"The government has bought what this drunk, self-serving crackhead has sold them to get a better deal for himself," O'Brien told The Associated Press. "Now the prosecutors will have to watch as I destroy Duffy and the government's case in front of the jury."
Lamont went missing after an October 2019 shift at the Local No. 9 deli in Johnstown and was found three days later. An autopsy found she died of multiple blows to the head.
Duffy, 35, recalled cutting off the woman's clothing before placing fertilizer, concrete, cement pavers and dirt over her. He and Kakavelos then put leaves, grass and branches over the grave, he said.
"I asked him to help me — he was really hesitant," Duffy testified. "Said he didn't want to see her face, it would haunt him."
Duffy, who managed the deli, told a Saratoga County jury that Kakavelos, 52, had been a role model to him and "always taken care of me." He said Kakavelos organized Lamont's killing.
Kakavelos has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. The jury is currently deliberating the case against Kakavelos who “faces the possibility of life in prison without parole if convicted of the top count- first-degree murder- in the deadly bludgeoning,” the Albany Times Union reported on June 16.
The 11-count indictment “also charged Kakavelos with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum of 25 years to life in prison; second-degree conspiracy; three counts of concealment of a human corpse and five counts of tampering with physical evidence,” the Times Union reported, adding that “the trial, now in its sixth week in Saratoga County Court, has included around 68 witnesses and 650 pieces of evidence,” and “the jury Wednesday requested to review video taken of Kakavelos, including his visit to Walmart on Oct. 28, 2019 and read-back of his cross-examination and testimony of Duffy.”
“Prosecutor Alan Poremba, first assistant to District Attorney Karen Heggen, told jurors in his closing argument Monday that Kakavelos marked Lamont for death because the Gloversville woman filed a state labor complaint against him about his admitted practices of paying employees under the table,” the Times Union reported, noting that “Poremba said the defendant, who kept no financial records of his business, had already received two letters from an investigator from the state Department of Labor.”
Poremba said that “Kakavelos, a Greek immigrant who previously owned the Saratoga Diner in Saratoga Springs and Travers Diner in Gloversville, owed the state more than $70,000 and the Internal Revenue Service more than $120,000,” the Times Union reported, adding that “the labor complaint, the prosecutor said, could have led to tax fraud charges for the defendant.”
Poremba said that “Kakavelos blamed Lamont, who was threatening to criticize him as a horrible boss on social media, for his financial woes,” the Times Union reported, adding that “he said Kakavelos believed Lamont was a ‘traitor’ and ‘ringleader’ of young female employees revolting against him- and that, all together, it led him to murder.”
Kakavelos testified last week and briefly on June 14, denying “any part of the crime,” the Times Union reported, noting that “Kakavelos, a married father of four children, emotionally told jurors he walked in on Duffy hovering over Lamont's naked and blooded body, horrified by what he witnessed.”
Kakavelos said that “Duffy forced him to help clean up the murder scene and move Lamont's body or be murdered along with his family,” the Times Union reported, adding that he said “Duffy told him to get cleaning supplies at a Walmart and be back in 15 minutes or he would ‘kill another.’
Poremba then “confronted the defendant with surveillance video that showed him casually and calmly buying a magazine and an Almond Joy candy bar at the Walmart when he said he was in distress,” the Times Union reported.
Defense attorney Kevin O'Brien said that “Duffy, whom he labeled a ‘crackhead’ multiple times while addressing the jury, was solely behind the murder of Lamont,” the Times Union reported.
The jury continues its deliberations on Thursday, June 17 with the day off on Friday, so a verdict is not reached on Thursday, it would be announced on Monday at the earliest, the Times Union reported.