FULTON & SARATOGA COUNTIES – James A. Duffy, who has already pleaded guilty to murder in the death of Johnstown sub shop worker Allyzibeth Lamont, testified Thursday that he and shop owner Georgios Kakavelos plotted the killing of Lamont for several days before her life ended on Oct. 28, 2019.
Testifying in Saratoga County Court at Kakavelos’ first-degree murder trial, Duffy said the planning of Lamont’s death began on Oct. 25, but was the culmination of months of tension between Kakavelos and Lamont over working conditions at the shop, especially Kakavelos’ practice of paying employees in cash only, off the books. She was threatening to put the situation on social media, Duffy said.
“She threatened [that] she was done negotiating with George, she was done being friendly, they weren’t even talking any more,” Duffy testified. “We talked about killing her, talked about getting rid of her.”
Lamont, 22, of Gloversville, was killed at the Local No. 9 Smokehouse and Substation on Oct. 28, 2019, police say. Her body was found in a shallow grave near the Northway Exit 13 southbound entrance ramp in Malta three days later, on Oct. 31, after Duffy confessed and led state police to the location.
Duffy, 35, of Johnstown, and Kakavelos, 52, of Milton, were indicted on charges of first-degree murder because it was an alleged murder-for-hire scheme. In late April Duffy pleaded guilty in Saratoga County Court to second-degree murder, in exchange for his testimony in Kakavelos’ trial, now in its third week. The case is being tried before a jury in Saratoga County because that is where Lamont’s body was found.
Duffy is to be sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in exchange for his cooperation. If convicted of first-degree murder, Kakavelos could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The defense is contending that Duffy committed the murder alone and Kakavelos only helped cover it up because Duffy threatened to harm his family.
Duffy testified on Thursday that he never threatened Kakavelos or his family.
Duffy, who is in jail and was dressed in a jail inmate’s suit, and accompanied by the two public defenders who represent him, spoke loudly and with apparent confidence while testifying for about three hours under direct examination by Assistant District Attorney Alan Poremba.
Duffy said Kakavelos’ practice was to pay employees in cash, with no records kept, and Kakavelos was aware that Lamont and another employee had spoken with a Department of Labor investigator who came to the shop on Sept. 10, 2019, “airing dirty laundry.” The department had subsequently sent a letter seeking information from the business.
But Duffy said he and Kakavelos also considered Lamont the shop’s “best worker,” though a “ringleader” among the five or six employees. “He said, ‘She’s trying to ruin us, start investigations,'” Duffy recounted. “He called her bitch a lot.”
One reason Kakavelos was concerned about protecting the shop’s reputation was because he was in the process of moving it to Saratoga Springs, Duffy said. “She was threatening social media attention, the whole nine yards,” he testified.
Duffy acknowledged he was drinking heavily at that time and also using heroin. He said in court that he was the shop’s manager, though other employees have testified previously that he did not have that title, though he often asserted that he was the “boss.”
Following an initial conversation in Kakavelos’ car parked behind the sub shop on Oct. 25, in which he and Kakavelos discussed “getting rid of” Lamont by getting her high on drugs and then choking her, Duffy said they planned the move for that Sunday, Oct. 27. But Duffy said he didn’t follow through with the plan. “I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to kill her,” he said.
That upset Kakavelos, Duffy testified, since Kakavelos had already given him $300 the previous Friday to buy drugs to get Lamont high. “He wanted to know why I didn’t kill Ally, and I told him I was doing all the work,” he told the jury.
On Monday, Oct. 28, the men took a UHaul truck from Malta to Saugerties to pick up a new oven, and further discussed the plan, Duffy said. He said that’s when they came up with a plan to hit Lamont with a metal baseball bat Kakavelos carried in his car, and then clean up the shop afterward and bury the body.
The killing took place after the shop closed for the day, around 7 p.m., Duffy said. He said Lamont stayed behind at Kakavelos’ request to help clean up and prepare for the next day. The killing took place in a small room off the main restaurant floor, in what Duffy called the “small kitchen.”
Duffy said the plan was for Kakavelos to put a plastic bag over Lamont’s head from behind and Duffy to then hit her with the bat, but when the time came, Kakavelos “wasn’t quick enough,” and Duffy hit her directly on the back of the head with the bat. Kakavelos then got the bag over her head as she sank to her knees, and Duffy then hit her through the bag a total of three more times, he testified. He said she dropped flat on the floor with Kakavelos choking her.
He said Kakavelos then told him to “get something heavier,” and he retrieved a small hammer used to prepare kindling for the restaurant’s meat smoker. Duffy said he then hit Lamont with the hammer. “I hit her with pretty much everything I had. It was a bad noise. It was more like branches breaking,” he testified.
Duffy testified that he left the room to drink a beer, and heard three more smacking noises, after which Kakavelos said, “It’s done, she’s dead.” Duffy testified that they both checked for a pulse and found none. Though both helped wrap the body in plastic bags and later load it into Kakavelos’ Volkswagen Passat hatchback, Duffy testified that it was Kakavelos who did most of the subsequent mopping and cleaning.
“He said, ‘We have to contain this,’ because there was more blood than what we originally thought,” Duffy testified.
Kakavelos had earlier that evening loaned Lamont $500 cash for a rent deposit, and Kakavelos took that money from her pocket and gave it to Duffy, along with her cellphone. “He said, ‘This is for doing a good job,'” Duffy testified. Duffy said he broke the cellphone in two after being unable to log into it.
That payment brought the total Kakavelos had paid Duffy in connection with the killing to $800, including $300 paid the previous Friday, Duffy said.
Cleaning supplies ran out, he continued, and Kakavelos went to the Gloversville Walmart for more, leaving Duffy behind, drinking more beer. Duffy estimated the owner was gone 30 to 40 minutes. “It felt like an eternity,” he testified.
After that, Duffy testified that he saw Kakavelos wipe the hammer down with a rag, using bleach and water.
Duffy will continue his direct testimony at 9:15 a.m. Friday. He still must undergo cross-examination by defense attorney Kevin O’Brien.
The trial is being held without the public in the courtroom due to pandemic restrictions. The Gazette is viewing the proceedings via video link.