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Bench trial for murder defendant slated for August 17 in Thomson

A date now has been set for the bench trial of murder defendant Dannie Lee Samuels, The McDuffie Mirror has learned.

His trial is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 17, at 9:30 a.m., according to Deputy Clerk Amy Clark of the McDuffie County Superior Court Clerk's Office. Toombs Judicial Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Roger W. Dunaway, Jr. will be presiding over the case.

Mr. Samuels has been held in the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center in Thomson since his arrest as a suspect in the rape and strangulation slaying of 53-year-old Barbara Hefner, who was attacked inside her White Oak Road home near Thomson on March 6, 2004. Her body later was dumped in Folly Lake near Interstate 20 in McDuffie County.

Mr. Samuels is charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated battery, concealing a death and statutory aggravated circumstances. He recently waived a jury trial, opting instead to have his case heard by a judge in a bench trial.

As a result of Mr. Samuels' decision to give up his right to have a jury of 12 persons hear the evidence in the case and then find him innocent or guilty, he decided to let a single person - Judge Dunaway in this case - decide his fate based solely on the evidence and facts presented. If Mr. Samuels is found guilty of all or any of the charges, it also would be Judge Dunaway to decide his punishment.

Following his arrest and subsequent indictment by a grand jury on the multiple criminal charges, Mr. Samuels had been served with court papers informing him that the state prosecutor would be seeking the death penalty against him. Since the defendant's agreement of late to waive a jury trial, however, the death penalty since has been removed as possible punishment.

If he's found guilty in his summertime trial, Mr. Samuels could face life imprisonment with the possibility of parole or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dennis C. Sanders is expected to prosecute the case.

Web posted on Thursday, April 02, 2009

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