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Rape, murder trial slated to begin for Samuels

After more than five years of waiting in a jail cell on rape and murder charges, Dannie Lee Samuels is about to get his day in court.

Security is expected to be extremely tight as Mr. Samuels' bench trial gets under way in McDuffie County Superior Court in Thomson on Monday.

Toombs Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Roger W. Dunaway Jr. will preside over the trial, which could last several days, a court official said.

Mr. Samuels is accused of killing 53-year-old Barbara Hefner on March 6, 2004. The slaying and other crimes occurred at Ms. Hefner's home off White Oak Road near Thomson.

Mr. Samuels, who is represented by capital defense lawyers from Atlanta, waived a jury trial earlier this year in exchange for Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dennis C. Sanders dismissing the death penalty against him if he were found guilty.

Instead of Mr. Samuels' fate being decided by a 12-member jury, only Judge Dunaway will hear the facts of the case.

If he finds the defendant guilty, the judge will also decide punishment.

Charges against Mr. Samuels include malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated battery, concealing a death and statutory aggravated circumstances, court records show.

If found guilty, Mr. Samuels could face life imprisonment. Parole is possible.

Web posted on Thursday, August 13, 2009

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