BALLSTON SPA – A customer of the former Local No. 9 sub shop in Johnstown testified in Saratoga County Court Thursday to having observed workplace tensions at the business shortly before deli employee Allyzibeth A. Lamont was killed in October 2019.
Deon Wardsmith, a U.S. Marine recruiter in Johnstown, was a near-daily customer and got to know Lamont, manager James Duffy, Duffy’s girlfriend and shop owner Georgios Kakavelos, he said on the second day of testimony in Kakavelos’ trial for first-degree murder.
“The surveillance cameras would move, they [the two women employees] would say George was watching, they would yell at the camera,” Wardsmith testified. He also said the women would make an obscene hand gesture toward the camera.
Wardsmith also said he witnessed a verbal argument between Duffy and the two women over a short count in the cash register on the late afternoon of Oct. 28, 2019 – the day she was killed.
Kakavelos, 52, of Malta, is on trial for first-degree murder and evidence tampering, for allegedly hiring Duffy to kill Lamont, 22, because she was threatening to report him to the state Department of Labor for wage violations. County Court Judge James A. Murphy III is presiding of the trial, expected to last four to six weeks.
According to prosecutors, Duffy struck Lamont in the head with a baseball bat and then, when she struggled, a small sledgehammer. The incident occurred in the restaurant bathroom around 8 p.m., after it had closed for the night, prosecutors say. The men then drove the body to Saratoga County, where they dumped it in marshy woods near the Northway Exit 13 southbound on ramp in Malta.
The body was discovered three days later, the night of Oct. 31, after Duffy told police were to find it, as well as other evidence that had been hidden at other locations, police said.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Kakavelos could get a prison sentence of life without parole. Duffy, 35, has already pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder and is expected to be sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in return for his cooperation and testimony against Kakavelos.
Kakavelos’ defense attorney, Kevin O’Brien of Albany, is arguing that Duffy was solely responsible for the murder, and Kakavelos only cooperated with the subsequent efforts to clean the scene and hide the body and other evidence because Duffy threatened his family. O’Brien described Duffy in opening statements as an alcoholic and drug user.
Wardsmith and another prosecution witness said, under cross-examinaton by O’Brien, that they had seen Duffy drunk while at work. “Yes, frequently,” Wardsmith testified.
“I knew he was a drunk, I remember him stumbling around and harassing customers, customers called the cops on him,” testified the other witness, Russell Rohrmeier, a friend of Lamont’s who gave her a ride to work the day she died.
William Lyon of Gloversville, Lamont’s boyfriend of about two months, said the two were in regular touch by Facebook Messenger, but his messages weren’t acknowledged after 7:26 p.m. on Oct. 28.
Gloversville police Officer Chad Simonson testified about initiating a missing person’s investigation after friend and sometime roommate Jennie Young reported Lamont missing on Oct. 29. He had no success over the next two days in trying to locate her through family and friends who said they were becoming concerned about her, he said.
On Oct. 30, Gloversville police Detective Christopher Zink was assigned to visit the deli area and encountered Kakavelos and Duffy. He went into the sub shop to find it open for business, but “somewhat in disarray,” with furniture moved, a soda machine on its side and the bathroom door missing. Inside the bathroom, he testified that he noticed a piece of baseboard missing, with a pinkish liquid substance drying there.
Zink also testified concerning a surveillance camera from a business across the street from No. 9 that showed the business going dark a few minutes before 8 p.m., and people who could not be clearly identified leaving and returning to the business several times over the next hour.
Zink’s testimony under direct examination by Assistant District Attorney Alan Poremba will continue at 9:15 a.m. Monday.