FULTON & SARATOGA COUNTIES – The first-degree murder case against Johnstown sub shop owner Georgios Kakavelos is expected to go to the jury early next week, the start of the sixth week of the Saratoga County Court trial over who is responsible for the 2019 death of sub shop employee Allyzibeth Lamont.
Defendant Georgios Kakavelos, 52, of Milton — expected to be the last witness — was the only witness on Friday, under cross-examination most of the day. In his third day on the witness stand, he was combative at times with lead prosecutor Alan Poremba.
County Court Judge James A. Murphy III told jurors he expects the prosecution and defense attorney Kevin O’Brien to present their closing arguments on Monday, with deliberations to follow.
Kakavelos will return to the witness stand briefly on Monday, after testimony was stopped late Friday when Kakavelos said that following his arrest, he tried to get “his side of the story” to the District Attorney’s Office through his attorney – information the jury should not have been allowed to hear. While it’s in dispute whether there was a contact attempt, there was no contact between the parties, both sides agree.
After a brief recess, Murphy instructed jurors to ignore the testimony about an attempted contact. During earlier cross-exam, Murphy also had to repeatedly warn Kakavelos to only answer the questions he was asked; Kakavelos often responded to questions by asking questions, or trying to defend his actions.
During cross-examination on both Thursday and Friday, Poremba showed surveillance video footage to Kakavelos that appears to undermine parts of Kakavelos’ account, in which he said another shop employee, James Duffy, was entirely responsible for the killing, and Kakavelos played only a passive role.
Kakavelos, the owner of the Local No. 9 Smokehouse and Substation in Johnstown, is on trial for first-degree murder, conspiracy and tampering with evidence, based on a charge that he hired Duffy, 35, to kill the 22-year-old Lamont. The victim was killed at the Johnstown shop on Oct. 28, 2019, and her body found three days later in a shallow grave near Northway Exit 13 in the Saratoga County town of Malta. The case is being prosecuted in Saratoga County because that is where Lamont’s body was found.
Prosecutors have said Kakavelos blamed Lamont for a state Department of Labor investigation into pay practices at the shop, and for being a “ringleader” among disgruntled shop employees.
Duffy in April pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testifying against Kakavelos. He is to receive 18 years to life in prison, while a conviction for first-degree murder could have led to a sentence of life in prison without parole.
In three days of testimony that concluded earlier this week, Duffy testified that at Kakavelos’ instigation, he hit Lamont in the head with an aluminum baseball bat and then a hammer. He said both participated in a two-day effort orchestrated by Kakavelos to dispose of the body and hide evidence.
Duffy confessed during a police interview on Oct. 31 and led police to various evidence locations, including the burial site; during a separate interview later that day, Kakavelos refused to answer further questions about the night Lamont disappeared.
Kakavelos, the only defense witness, gave sob-wracked testimony on Tuesday in which he denied any role in Lamont’s death, calling Duffy a “monster” who killed Lamont the evening of Oct. 28 while Kakavelos was driving another employee home. Kakavelos testified that Duffy repeatedly threatened him when he returned to the shop to find Lamont dead and Duffy covered in blood.
Kakavelos said under his own attorney’s questioning on Tuesday that Duffy forced him to drive to the Gloversville Walmart after the murder to get cleaning supplies, saying he had 15 minutes to get back to the sub shop, or he would “kill another.”
On Friday, Poremba showed Kakavelos and the jury Walmart surveillance videos from that evening in which Kakavelos appears to walk slowly and casually, and casually leaving the store, eating an Almond Joy bar. He bought about $70 worth of paper towels, bleach, tarps and cleaning supplies during the visit, using a list he said Duffy showed him, but didn’t let him keep.
Poremba also showed surveillance video from a neighboring business in which two figures are seen near Kakavelos’ vehicle backed up to the sub shop door, at around the time Lamont’s body and filled plastic bags were loaded into the vehicle. Kakavelos earlier testified that Duffy alone loaded the vehicle – including lifting the 180-pound Lamont – by himself. Kakavelos said he was intimidated and waited, sitting on the floor near the cash register, as Duffy had instructed.
Poremba also got Kakavelos to admit that while he and Duffy exchanged numerous text messages the next day, none contained threats.
Kakavelos conceded during cross-examination, as he did during his direct questioning by O’Brien, that he had numerous opportunities to drive to a police station, call police, or drive away from Duffy while he was outside Kakavelos’ vehicle burying Lamont’s body.
“I did not go to the police on any of those occasions, and I did have the opportunity,” Kakavelos acknowledged, having been pressed on the point several times. “I have made a decision and I am following through on the decision.”
He also agreed, with prodding from Poremba, that he moved plastic bags filled with bloody rags and other evidence in the early morning hours of Oct. 30 even though Duffy wasn’t with him, and he got his car professionally cleaned on Oct. 31 even though he had been interviewed by police once, and he knew they wanted to speak to him again.
When O’Brien had a chance to question Kakavelos again late Friday, Kakavelos said he returned to his home in the early morning of Oct. 29, looked in on his wife and children, then went to his laundry room to sit and think, deciding that if he went to police, he and his family would never be safe from revenge by Duffy or his “brothers.”
“That choice, going to the police, is not a choice that will make me, my family and others safe. In a month, in a year or two, we would never be safe,” he testified. “Or do what [Duffy] says, and then the only victim would be me.”
“What I know is that choice did not leave any more blood, any more life lost,” he said a little later.
The trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
The case is being tried in Saratoga County Court in Ballston Spa, with all participants wearing masks and following other COVID protocols, because Lamont’s body was found in Saratoga County.