FULTON & SARATOGA COUNTIES — The former girlfriend of admitted murderer James Duffy testified Monday that she became so suspicious of their mutual boss that she jumped from his vehicle at a Johnstown Stewart’s shop when he said he wanted her to go to a desolate area with him to help clean out his car.
Kristen Garatoski testified that she feared for her life when she was in the car with Georgios Kakavelos on Oct. 30, 2019. Kakavelos is on trial for first-degree murder in Saratoga County Court in connection with the death of 22-year-old Allyzibeth Lamont of Gloversville on Oct. 28, 2019, at the Local No. 9 Smokehouse and Substation deli in Johnstown.
Both Garatoski and Duffy testified on Monday that there were moments after Lamont died that they thought Kakavelos might try to kill them.
Garatoski said she had become increasingly suspicious that the two men were involved in what was then the “disappearance” of Lamont. Kakavelos, owner of Local No. 9, and the other three worked there. Garatoski was unable to reach Duffy and Kakavelos for extended periods on the next two nights after the disappearance, she said.
After Kakavelos and Duffy came back from their initial police interviews about Lamont’s disappearance on Oct. 30 and Duffy became so drunk he passed out and Garatoski called an ambulance, the 30-year-old Garatoski testified that she went to Kakavelos and demanded $200 for a bus ticket home, to northeastern Pennsylvania.
“Things were starting to not feel right,” she told the jury. “I just had a gut feeling that something is not right, and these two had something to do with Ally’s disappearance.”
She said Kakavelos agreed to take her to a Stewart’s where he would get money out of an ATM, and on the way, she tried to trick him, saying Duffy had “told me everything.”
“He looked at me and said, ‘Nicole (as he called her), do you believe in brotherhood?'” After going to the ATM and as they were leaving Stewarts, Garatoski said Kakavelos wanted her to go with him to a “desolate” area, to help him clean out the back of his car.
“I jumped out of the car,” Garatoski testified, briefly sobbing. “I thought I was going to be murdered…I felt as if he was trying to quiet me.”
That night, Garatoski said Duffy confessed to her that he had killed Lamont. The next day, Oct. 31, state police came to take Duffy for a second interview — the questioning that would lead after several hours to a confession.
Garatoski testified that she, Duffy and a friend of theirs cleaned the restaurant all day with bleach on Oct. 29, on the pretext they were cleaning up a mess made when soda machine lines were cut. While it was Duffy as shop manager who gave the orders and Kakavelos wasn’t there, Garatoski said Duffy talked on the phone multiple times to Kakavelos, and she got the impression he was directing their activities.
Garatoski is currently in jail in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, following an arrest on a drug sale charge, but was allowed to appear in court in civilian clothes. She was brought from Pennsylvania to testify on the grounds she was a material witness. When asked if she ever sold drugs, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Kakavelos, 52, of Milton, is on trial for first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the death of Lamont, whose body was found buried in a shallow grave on Oct. 31, 2019, near the southbound entrance ramp to Northway Exit 13. Duffy, who says he was paid by Kakavelos to kill Lamont, had led police to the location.
Duffy, 35, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is expected to be sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in exchange for testifying against Kakavelos, who could face life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder.
Also on Monday, Duffy — the prosecution’s key witness — completed three days of testimony with more than an hour of additional cross-examination by defense attorney Kevin O’Brien. The defense is contending that Duffy was the sole murderer, and Kakavelos only helped hide the body and evidence before he was threatened by Duffy.
Duffy has testified that he was paid between $1,100 and $1,300 by Kakavelos for killing Lamont, whom he said Kakavelos blamed for complaints to the state Department of Labor about working conditions and under-the-table employee payments at Local No. 9. Duffy testified that he beat Lamont in the back of the head with a baseball bat and later with a hammer, and that Kakavelos choked her.
Duffy earlier testified that they both spent the night of the killing and the next night driving around, disposing of the body, going back to bury it the next night, and hiding evidence including bags of bloody clothing and cleaning rags.
On Monday, Duffy testified concerning the 2 1/2-lb sledge hammer that police found in the woods near where Lamont’s body was found. In earlier testimony, he identified it was the hammer used at the sub shop when preparing wood to go into a meat smoker. He testified earlier that it was used to strike the final fatal blows to Lamont.
Duffy said that when he saw Kakavelos with the hammer at the burial site the night of Oct. 29, he took it away from him and threw it. At that point, he said he hadn’t seen the hammer since shortly after he used it to smash Lamont’s skull, and believed it should still have been in its usual place at the restaurant.
“If it was out of where it was supposed to be, I knew it was for the purposes of no good,” Duffy testified, during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Alan Poremba. “I thought he was going to try to whack me with it.”
Duffy also acknowledged having told police that he “loved” Lamont, but said it was as a friend. He said they did not have a sexual relationship. He said Kakavelos promised to “take care” of Duffy, but there was no discussed price for the slaying.
“You took his word he would take care of you, and then murdered a person you loved?” O’Brien asked.
“Correct,” responded Duffy, who gruffly gave one-word answers often during cross-examination.
Also testifying Monday was Cy Ray, president of ZETX, a company that uses cellphone data to track the movements of people carrying cellphones. He testified to cellphone movement corrobation of movements by both Kakavelos and Duffy before and on the night Lamont was killed — such as Kakavelos’ purchase of a large amount of cleaning supplies — that have already been the subject of testimony.
Ray will resume his testimony at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday. The case is being tried before a jury in Saratoga County Court in Ballston Spa, with Judge James A. Murphy III presiding, because Lamont’s body was found in Saratoga County, even though the actual killing occurred in Johnstown.