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Samuels pleads not guilty during court appearance for Hefner death

Dannie Lee Samuels pleaded not guilty to the March 2004 murder of Barbara Hefner in McDuffie County Superior Court Friday morning. During the half-hour arraignment, Mr. Samuels seemed subdued and never made eye contact with the family members of Ms. Hefner sitting in the front row of the courtroom.

After verifying Mr. Samuels' identity, Superior Court Judge Roger Dunaway read the 10-count indictment against Mr. Samuels handed down by the Grand Jury. Included in those counts are aggravated assault, aggravated battery, rape, aggravated sodomy, malice murder, felony murder and concealing the death of another person.

According to the document, Mr. Samuels is accused of raping and strangling Ms. Hefner in her Whiteoak Road home and then dumping her body in Folly Lake, where authorities found it on March 6, 2004.

Near the end of the arraignment, Judge Dunaway asked Mr. Samuels if he was satisfied with his defense team led by Attorney Mike Garrett.

"Yes, as far as I know," he replied.

Next up for the case is a motion hearing. Attorneys on both sides will notify the judge of dates available to hold the hearing. Mr. Garrett told Judge Dunaway he would need two months to file motions, and both sides agreed to an Aug. 1 deadline.

Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders said he doesn't expect the trial portion of the case to begin until sometime next year. If convicted of the strangling death of Ms. Hefner, Mr. Samuels could face the death penalty.

Web posted on Thursday, June 1, 2006

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