BALLSTON SPA – The owner of a Johnstown sub shop regarded Allyzibeth Lamont as a “ringleader” among disgruntled employees, arranged with a manager to beat her to death, and then made extensive efforts to cover up the crime, a prosecutor charged in opening statements Wednesday in Georgios Kakavelos’ trial for first-degree murder.
“Defendant took great measures to hide his act, but what he didn’t expect was his confidante, his right-hand man, coming forward,” Assistant District Attorney Alan Poremba told the Saratoga County Court jury, “He showed [police] where all the evidence was hidden.”
The former deli manager, James A. Duffy, 35, of Johnstown, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and is expected to be a key prosecution witness against Kakavelos, testimony he will give in exchange for receiving an 18-year-to-life prison sentence.
In his opening statement, Kakavelos’ defense attorney, Kevin K. O’Brien of Albany, repeatedly attacked Duffy, calling him an alcoholic and drug user who killed Lamont for uncertain reasons but without Kakavelos’ knowledge, and then threatened Kakavelos’ family if the deli owner didn’t aid him in covering up the crime.
“This guy is violent. He is emotional. He hates women, and he is the government’s star witness,” O’Brien told jurors. “He is everything Mr. Kakavelos is not.”
The trial is taking place a year-and-a-half after the notorious killing of Lamont, which involved crime scenes in both Fulton and Saratoga counties.
The naked and mud-caked body of Lamont, who was 22 when she was killed, was found on Oct. 31, 2019, in a shallow grave in a wooded marshy area of the southbound Northway Exit 13 access ramp in Malta. Duffy led police to the body. He and Kakavelos were then accused of killing her, using a baseball bat and small sledgehammer.
The killing took place at the Local No. 9 Smokehouse and Substation on Route 30A in Johnstown, the business where all three worked, on Oct. 28, three days before the body was discovered, policed say.
Kakavelos, 52, of Malta, faces a first-degree murder charge because he is accused of hiring Duffy to commit the murder. The 11-count indictment also charged him with concealing a human corpse and extensive evidence tampering. If convicted of the top murder count, Kakavelos could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. He has been in jail since both he and Duffy were arrested shortly after the body was discovered.
Poremba told jurors that Kakavelos paid Duffy to kill Lamont, but then aided in the killing and in efforts over several days to dispose of the body and other evidence. In a statement to police expected to be entered at trial, Duffy has said he received three payments over several days totaling $1,300.
“They brutally beat Allyzibeth Lamont to death with a baseball bat and one-hand sledge hammer,” Poremba told the jury. “They took numerous measures to throw law enforcement off their tracks. They left numerous red herrings.”
The prosecution said Lamont was killed after closing time on Oct. 28, 2019, because Kakavelos was in financial trouble. He was paying employees under the table and Lamont was speaking up and threatening to tell the state Department of Labor about the working conditions. Lamont, known as “Ally,” had worked at the sub shop less than a year, but was inexplicably demoted and replaced by Duffy, Poremba said.
“She was assertive and spoke up for herself and other employees,” he said.
In the immediate aftermath of the killing, Kakavelos went to the Walmart in Gloversville to buy bleach, soap and trash bags to clean up the crime scene, Poremba said. That same night, Duffy and Kakavelos allegedly drove to Exit 13 in Kakavelos’ Volkswagen Passat and dragged the body into the woods. Poremba said they returned the next night to strip the body of bloody clothing, dump fertilizer on it to speed decomposition, placed concrete pavers on it, and cover it with leaves and branches.
The baseball bat, bags of bloody clothing and other evidence was left at a location on Rowland Street in Milton, Poremba said, and then later moved to another location on remote Dean Lung Road in Galway. On Oct. 30, the prosecutor said, Kakavelos also bought custom-fitted plywood at a store in Glenmont and placed it over his car’s trunk bottom, while also getting the interior cleaned and air freshened.
In response, O’Brien said the government’s entire case turns on the credibility of Duffy, who he said used drugs and drank alcohol on his own and with Lamont in the weeks prior to the killing. “Without James Duffy and his self-serving statements, they would have nothing,” he said.
O’Brien acknowledged Kakavelos had filed for bankruptcy, paid employees off the books and had avoided taxes, but said he was a stable family man who gave too much responsibility to Duffy because he had a one-month-old baby at home. “He wouldn’t kill a young girl so she wouldn’t talk to the Labor Department,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien strongly implied that Kakavelos will testify in his own defense. Defendants are under no obligation to testify.
“Georgios Kakavelos is going to be shown to be innocent, and another victim in this crime,” O’Brien said.
There were about two hours of testimony following the opening statements. One of the first witnesses was Jennie Young of Gloversville, who described herself as Lamont’s best friend, with whom she sometimes lived. It was Young who reported Lamont missing to Gloversville police late Tuesday, just over a day after the killing is alleged to have occurred.
“She was very outgoing, very generous, she didn’t take crap from nobody,” Young testified.
The trial is being held under special conditions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with jurors spread throughout the courtroom and observation by reporters and the public limited to video monitoring. The Saratoga Springs City Center was used for jury selection Monday and Tuesday because of its ability to space out a large number of people, and in the Ballston Spa courtroom, the 12 jurors and four alternates.
Jurors, lawyers, witnesses and court personnel are all required to wear face masks or face shields while in the courtroom. The witness chair and stand are being sanitized between each witness.
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks, according to Saratoga County Court Judge James A. Murphy III, who is presiding. Court is scheduled to resume this morning.