Daker is also charged with aggravated battery on Smith’s son, Nickolas, who was stabbed 16 times on Oct. 23, 1995. Nickolas Smith was 5 years old and in kindergarten at Timber Ridge Elementary at the time, but survived his injuries and is expected to testify in the trial. His paternal grandparents were in the courtroom on Monday.
About a year after the murder, Daker was convicted of stalking Smith’s upstairs housemate and spent 10 years in prison on those charges before he was released in 2006.
Daker, who is 34, had intended to represent himself in the murder trial and previously fired at least one court-appointed attorney. The father-son legal team of Michael and Jason Treadaway were appointed just weeks ago as standby counsel for Daker, and he agreed late Friday to let the Treadaways represent him in the case.
The state, led by deputy chief district attorney Jesse Evans, argued Monday against a delay in the murder trial.
“Because of the litigious nature of Mr. Daker, we are very concerned about consenting to a continuance, and we stand ready to try the case,” Evans told Judge Howe. “This is a situation manufactured by Mr. Daker. He’s been whipsawing this by asking for a speedy trial, and then doing things to slow it down.”
Defense attorney Michael Treadaway countered: “The heavens won’t fall if there’s a slight continuance. We need about 90 days. … The state spent 14 years developing this case. We’ve had 14 days. We can’t get it done. I’m worried about my client having a fair trial. I’m worried about justice.”
Howe, a senior judge from Douglas County who was appointed to this case by an administrative judge, initially agreed with the state.
“It seems to me that much of Mr. Daker’s self-made defense has been to delay and obfuscate,” he said in ordering the trial to proceed. But after conferring behind closed doors with the lawyers for about 45 minutes, Howe reversed that ruling.
Michael Treadaway then put Daker under oath, and from his seat at the defense table, Daker agreed to withdraw his demands for a speedy trial and also agreed to be represented by attorneys throughout the trial.
The trial is now set for June 4. Daker is charged with malice and felony murder, two counts of burglary, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and criminal attempt to commit aggravated stalking. The state included a tolling provision in the indictment to get out from under the statute of limitations on the non-murder counts.
Daker, a Canadian citizen who lived in Duluth, was just 19 when he was convicted in 1996 of two counts of aggravated stalking against Loretta “Lottie” Spencer Blatz for making repeated harassing telephone calls to her on Oct. 14 and Oct. 20, 1995, against a Fulton County judge’s order that he have no contact with her. Blatz testified at Daker’s 1996 stalking trial that after she took her phone off the hook, her downstairs neighbor Karmen Smith began to receive harassing calls from Daker.
Smith, a Delta flight attendant, was found strangled in her basement apartment at 1580 Old Hunters Trace about 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 23, 1995.
In an earlier hearing, Evans told the court that on that morning, Smith sent her son off to school, and upstairs, Blatz likewise sent her 10-year-old daughter off to school and then went to work. Someone then entered the home and assaulted Smith and bound her wrists, perhaps with handcuffs, and stabbed her twice in the back, though the wounds were not fatal, Evans said. She was ultimately strangled with something, perhaps a rope, that left marks on her neck, he said.
According to Evans: “The defendant didn’t flee. He waited in the house for a significant amount of time. The children returned home from school and went briefly into the downstairs part of the house and called out. The defendant had moved her body into the bed and covered her body with blankets. Because there was no response, the kids went upstairs to the babysitter. After some time, they went back downstairs. They saw a shadow move across the doorway. Nick Smith, thinking it was his mother, ran into the back room. … An arm reached out and grabbed Nick, and stabbed him 16 times. The knife blade broke off and was left at the crime scene. (His playmate) ran upstairs to her babysitter, and the babysitter’s boyfriend grabbed an axe and went downstairs. By that time, Daker had fled.
“They pulled Nick out and took him to a neighbor’s house. Nobody realized Karmen was dead inside. It wasn’t until police arrived, responding to a report of a child injured, that she was found in the bed. The handcuffs had been removed, and she was partially nude. This is a sexual homicide,” Evans said.
Although Daker was one of several suspects at the time of the murder, it wasn’t until 2009 — after hairs that were found at the scene and hair samples from Daker were sent to a private DNA testing lab in Texas — that Daker was definitively linked to the crime scene.
Judge Howe will let prosecutors introduce evidence of similar transactions on the part of Daker, specifically three other women from his past whom he apparently stalked and threatened.
Daker had argued against the similar transactions during a hearing on Feb. 3, insisting the information was prejudicial.
“None of these are relevant,” he pleaded to Judge Howe at that time. “They add nothing to the case. The state wants to make me look like a bad guy in front of the jury and they’ll convict on that basis alone. None of these shed any light on the issue at hand, which is what happened and who was involved on Oct. 23, 1995.”
Blatz is also expected to testify during the murder trial.