FULTON & SARATOGA COUNTIES – The man who has already pleaded guilty to murder in the 2019 killing of 22-year-old Allyzibeth Lamont testified Friday that he and George Kakavelos engaged in a two-night effort to physically cover up the crime, even after they received a phone call saying that police wanted to talk to them.
Lamont was an employee of the Local No. 9 Smokehouse and Substation in Johnstown, owned by Kakavelos. Lamont who was beaten to death there on Oct. 28, 2019 – allegedly by James A. Duffy and Kakavelos.
Duffy, 35, has already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and testified for a second day as the prosecution’s key witness at Kakavelos’ trial for first-degree murder in Saratoga County Court in Ballston Spa. On Thursday, he testified to having struck Lamont with an aluminum baseball bat and then a small sledgehammer as part of a plan organized by Kakavelos, who he said paid him $800 to help him commit the killing.
On Friday, Duffy was the sole witness, spending more than four hours on the witness stand.
He told the jury, under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Alan Poremba, that he agreed to help kill Lamont because Kakavelos had been good to him. Kakavelos had given him jobs at the Travers Diner in Gloversville and then at Local No. 9, as well as odd construction jobs. Those jobs were provided even though Duffy acknowledged having a heavy drinking and drug problem.
“George has always taken care of me so far,” Duffy said, when asked why he participated. “He was kind of a male role model. He’s had a number of hard times, and moved forward.”
Kakavelos, 52, of Milton, is accused of having Lamont killed because she had complained to the state Department of Labor about his practice of paying employees off the books. Duffy said on Thursday that Kakavelos considered Lamont the “ringleader” among employees hostile to Kakavelos. Duffy also worked at Local No. 9 as the manager.
Kakavelos’ defense is expected to contend that it was Duffy alone who killed Lamont and Kakavelos only helped cover up the crime because Duffy threatened him and his family, which included a newborn.
Duffy testified that on the night Lamont was killed, he and Kakavelos loaded the body of the Gloversville woman, wrapped in plastic bags, into Kakavelos’ Volkswagen Passat. Duffy said they had picked out a location in advance called “the dump” for disposing of the body. But once there, they determined it was unsuitable because guardrails made it difficult to position the car and the body would have to be lifted over the rails, he said.
“It was an evolving plan, so we didn’t really know what to do,” Duffy testified.
They settled on Northway Exit 13 in Malta as a location, Duffy said. They waited until it was late enough that traffic had died down, then the body and plastic trash bags filled with bloody rags, gloves and other evidence were left just off the southbound entrance ramp, Duffy testified. While they were parked on the shoulder, Duffy said they put up the car hood to make it look like the vehicle was parked there because it was disabled.
Duffy said he left his cellphone behind at the sub shop and Kakavelos left his cellphone, first in a bin at the Saratoga Winery on Route 29 and then in his home mailbox – apparently thinking it would fool authorities if they tried to track their movements through cellphone locations.
Duffy testified that the next morning he, a friend and his girlfriend, who also worked at the shop, cleaned the restaurant with bleach and water. Duffy said he had cut lines on the soda machine before leaving the night before to create a mess than would need more cleaning up.
That night – Oct. 29 – Duffy and Kakavelos went back to Exit 13, Duffy testified. “We had talked about, we had to bury the body so we could finish this, tie up the loose ends.” Duffy also testified that Kakavelos dropped him off to dig the grave and then drove away. Kakavelos came back later, Duffy said. He testified that they both participated in burying Lamont in the waist-deep grave, though Kakavelos providing limited help. “I asked him to help me, he was really hesitant, said he didn’t want to see her face, it would haunt him,” Duffy testified.
Duffy recounted that he cut off Lamont’s clothing, and placed fertilizer, powered concrete, cement pavers and dirt over her. Then he said both men put leaves, grass and branches over the grave.
Duffy recounted drinking beer throughout both the evening Lamont was killed and the next evening, when she was buried.
Duffy said Kakavelos paid the bill for him to stay that night at Coco’s Motel in Malta. He said Kakavelos told him he was going home and would dispose of the other plastic bags.
The following morning, Oct. 30, Kakavelos picked up Duffy at the motel and drove him to pick up beer and cigarettes, then to a location on Rowland Street in Milton where the plastic bags had been left, Duffy said. Some of the bags, though not all of them, were loaded back into the car, Duffy said. “We were supposed to move them to a more secure location, where he could then burn them.”
It was also on Oct. 30 that Gloversville police first publicized Lamont’s disappearance, seeking the public’s help in finding her. She was then listed as a missing person, but there was an active police investigation.
Duffy said that as they drove toward Johnstown that morning with the bags in the car, “we got a quick call saying the police wanted to talk to us, so we had to make a quick stop to dump the stuff we had with us.” As a result, two bags were dumped in woods on Dean Lung Road in Galway, and Duffy said the baseball bat was thrown into a “beaver pond” a little farther up that road.
During his initial interview with police at the Gloversville Police Station on Oct. 30, Duffy didn’t admit to the killing. Under cross-examination by defense attorney Kevin O’Brien, he acknowledged telling police that day that Lamont “might be” a prostitute, had a “stalker” who called the sub shop, and that she owed him $140 for drugs.
That night, he said he called Kakavelos and told him he needed money. He said Kakavelos, who had been interviewed separately by police about Lamont’s disappearanc, came to his apartment in Johnstown and spoke to him outside, giving him an additional $200.
“It was a bad conversion,” Duffy testified. “He asked if I was all right, what did you say, what did [police] talk to you about? He gave money, he said it’s OK if you want to disappear … Have a good day … It was a fast conversation, he felt someone was following him.”
On Oct. 31, state police came to his apartment in the morning and took him for a second interview, leading that same day to Duffy taking police to Lamont’s body, and also to the three locations where evidence bags were found. He also gave police a formal statement.
Asked by Poremba about why he “came clean,” Duffy said: “I never really wanted to do it in the first place. I was dealing with my own problems, I was feeling bad about the whole situation … I just wanted it to be over.”
Duffy, who is to be sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in exchange for testifying against Kakavelos, appeared on the witness stand dressed in a green jail inmate’s uniform, and in leg shackles and handcuffs. He spoke loudly and with apparent confidence, though often answered questions only briefly, with incorrect grammar and with only partial sentences.
During cross-examination, O’Brien got Duffy to acknowledge some details on several past crimes, including a forcible rape committed in Pennsylvania when he was “16 or 17,” providing a false ID while underage drinking in Pennsylvania, possession of marijuana in 2008, and violating a court order in Pennsylvania by visiting his children in 2012.
Duffy, who in earlier testimony said he came to Johnstown from northeastern Pennsylvania in 2017 to “get away from drugs,” acknowledged that in 2019 he was using crack cocaine and drinking beer on a daily basis, and also using heroin. He said it was Lamont who helped get in connected with the Gloversville-Johnstown drug scene, and that at the time of her death she owed him $140 for drugs.
Cross-examination of Duffy will resume at 9:45 a.m. Monday, as the trial enters is fourth week. Kakavelos, who Duffy acknowledged never drank, used drugs or smoked cigarettes in his presence, could face life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder.
The case is being tried in Saratoga County because that is where Lamont’s body was found.