FULTON & SARATOGA COUNTIES – The owner of a Johnstown deli faces life in prison after being convicted Thursday of first-degree murder and nine other charges in connection with the 2019 killing of one of his employees, 22-year-old Allyzibeth Lamont of Gloversville.
Georgios Kakavelos, 52, of Milton, was convicted of instigating a murder-for-hire scheme because of Lamont’s complaints to the state Department of Labor against his business, the Local No. 9 Smokehouse and Substation, and his practice of avoiding taxes by paying employees under the table.
The Saratoga County Court jury, which has been hearing testimony for six weeks, convicted Kakavelos of all charges against him after deliberating for about seven hours over two days, not counting time spent on review of videos and read-backs of key testimony Thursday morning. The verdict was reached about 3 p.m. and announced in the courtroom about 45 minutes later.
Sentencing before County Court Judge James A. Murphy III is set for 11 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 19. A first-degree murder conviction could result in a sentence of life in prison without parole. Kakavelos has been in the Saratoga County Jail since his arrest the night Lamont’s body was discovered.
Defense attorney Kevin O’Brien of Albany said that he disagreed with the verdict, but he credited the jury – hearing the case under highly unusual circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – with paying close attention throughout the lengthy trial. He said he will file a notice of appeal on behalf of Kakavelos, but a different attorney would handle any appeal.
“I think there are some issues, but I’m not an appeals attorney,” O’Brien said.
“It was six weeks of work for a client I really do like,” O’Brien said. “The jury did its job, though I disagree with it. I thought the district attorney and the judge were very fair, and I don’t always say that.”
District Attorney Karen A. Heggen commended the work of the law enforcement agencies involved, as well as the “dedicated work of the prosecutor, First Assistant District Attorney Alan M. Poremba, along with Assistant District Attorneys Joseph Frandino and Johnny Destino.”
Kakavelos was convicted of first-degree murder for hiring another employee, James A. Duffy, 35, to kill Lamont, who was slain at the Townsend Avenue shop on Oct. 28, 2019. Her body, buried in a shallow grave, was found by police on Oct. 31 near the southbound entrance ramp to Northway Exit 13 in Malta.
Lamont’s body was discovered after Duffy confessed during a police interrogation and led police to the body and the locations where other evidence had been hidden.
Duffy was also charged with first-degree murder, but in April pleaded guilty to a single count of second-degree murder. In exchange for testifying against Kakavelos, Duffy will be sentenced to 18 years to life in prison.
In addition to first-degree murder, Kakavelos was convicted of second-degree conspiracy, two counts of concealment of a human corpse, and six counts of tampering with evidence, in Fulton, Saratoga and Albany counties. There was also a charge of second-degree murder in the indictment, but it wasn’t considered once the deliberating jury agreed he was guilty of first-degree murder.
In three days on the witness stand, Duffy testified that Kakavelos paid him between $1,100 and $1,300 in cash for killing Lamont. After closing hours on Oct 28, the men created a ruse by cutting a soda machine line, creating a soda syrup mess that Lamont was asked to stay late to help clean up.
During that cleanup in a utility room at the deli, Duffy hit Lamont from behind with a baseball bat while Kakavelos put a plastic bag of her head and choked her, he testified.
When Lamont was still moving after four bat blows, Duffy testified matter-of-factly that he got a small sledgehammer from the kitchen and struck her in the head. Once she was dead and there was more blood on the floor than expected, Duffy testified that Kakavelos went to the Gloversville Walmart and purchased bleach, rags and other cleaning supplies – a move caught on multiple surveillance videos.
Duffy testified that Kakavelos cleaned the scene while Duffy drank beer. Then the two men then drove together to Saratoga County, where Lamont was left late at night near the exit ramp, along with plastic bags containing blood rags and other evidence.
Duffy testified they returned the next night, Oct. 29, to bury the body and move the plastic bags to wooded locations in the town of Milton. On the morning of Oct. 30, the bat and two plastic bags were disposed of on Dean Lung Road in Galway after the pair learned police wanted to question them, Duffy testified.
Also on Oct. 30, Kakavelos took his Volkswagen Passat to Albany County, where he bought plywood to replace the flooring in the vehicle’s trunk and had the interior deep-cleaned and deodorized at a car wash, even as he knew police were looking to interview him for a second time.
Both men were interviewed by police on Oct. 30, when Lamont was still just a missing person, and denied harm came to her. Duffy was re-interviewed on Oct. 31 and confessed. After the body was found, Kakavelos was asked back to the Gloversville police department. He was told only that new evidence had been found, and then refused to answer further questions about the night Lamont disappeared.
During the trial, Kakavelos testified in his own defense for parts of four days and denied any involvement in the murder. He called Duffy a “monster” and said he acted alone. Kakavelos said Duffy threatened him and his family, which is why he didn’t go to police and cooperated in coverup efforts.
Duffy’s motive would have been either infatuation with a young woman who rejected his advances or that she owed Duffy money for drugs, according to the defense.
During his closing argument on Monday, Poremba summarized Kakavelos’ testimony and told jurors: “I submit to you that his testimony is incredible, and by incredible I mean unworthy of belief.”
Kakavelos has lived in Saratoga County for 22 years and once ran the Saratoga Diner as well as the Travers Diner in Gloversville. Duffy testified that he had been to Saratoga County only a handful of times. Duffy came from northeastern Pennsylvania to Johnstown three years ago to “escape drugs,” he said, and Kakavelos repeatedly hired him, fired him for heavy drinking, and then hired him again.
At the time of the murder, Duffy was working at the deli and also doing odd jobs and construction for Kakavelos, who was planning for a new Local No. 9 location in a strip mall in Saratoga Springs.
Kakavelos was the only defense witness, while prosecutors presented 66 witnesses and 651 pieces of evidence over 18 days of testimony.
Lamont, who had worked at Local No. 9 for about six months, was Kakavelos’ “best worker,” according to Duffy and other employees who testified. But Kakavelos came to see her as a “ringleader” of employees against him, and apparently held her responsible for a pending state Labor Department investigation.
At the time of the murder, he already owed about $70,000 in unpaid state payroll and sales taxes, $122,000 in federal income taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, and had filed for bankruptcy, according to trial testimony.
The case is the most high-profile case to be tried in the Capital Region since state courts re-opened in the wake of the pandemic. The judge, attorneys and jurors were all required to wear masks throughout the proceedings, although witnesses used clear plastic face shields so facial expressions could be seen. Plexiglass dividers were also up in several locations. Jurors were spread socially distanced throughout the courtroom rather than sitting in the jury box.
Because of capacity restrictions, news media – including the Daily Gazette – watched the trial remotely, through an electronic link.
The case was tried in Saratoga because that is where the body was found and some of the crimes took place.