Jury: Daker guilty

Relatives of slain Delta flight attendant Karmen Smith embraced and wept Friday after a Cobb County jury convicted Waseem Daker of stabbing and then strangling her to death.

Smith’s life was ended much too soon by a “savage monster,” they said.

“Today is not a great day for our family,” Smith’s brother, Jim Horan, said as he stood beside about a dozen relatives and friends outside the courthouse. “It is just another day without our sister, our mom, our daughter, Karmen. We miss her every day, and we’re glad that justice has been done.”

Horan said the family will reserve further comment until after the sentencing hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours before finding Daker guilty of all 11 counts related to the Oct. 23, 1995, slaying. He faces a maximum sentence of life plus about 45 years.

Daker will eventually be eligible for parole under the sentencing guidelines that were in place in 1995, when the crime occurred, but prosecutors did not know how soon that will be.

Daker was convicted of stabbing Smith in the back with a screwdriver or ice pick and strangling her with a rope. He then waited for almost four hours for her then-5-year-old son, Nick, to return home from school. When the boy walked into the basement apartment in Marietta, Daker snatched him up and stabbed him 16 to 18 times before fleeing the scene. Nick Smith survived.

Prosecutors said Daker killed Karmen Smith and attacked her son because he was obsessed with her upstairs neighbor, Lottie Spencer Blatz. Daker was convicted of stalking Blatz in 1996. Authorities had long suspected Daker of killing Smith, however they were unable to connect him to the slaying until a new DNA testing of hairs found on the body matched Daker in 2009.

Daker, who represented himself during the trial, showed no noticeable reaction when the verdict was read aloud in the emotionally charged courtroom. Appearing calm and businesslike, Daker asked that jurors be polled individually to determine that their verdict was freely given — a typical request that defense attorneys make. Two of the younger female jurors cried as they stood and affirmed their decision.

Relief and gratitude welled in relatives and friends of the victims who packed the courtroom benches Friday. Blatz, who had been nervously kneading a handkerchief clutched in her hands, burst into tears when she heard the verdict. Nick Smith and his father, Mike Smith, both hugged Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans and slapped him on the back after the court adjourned. Several female relatives wiped away tears.

Earlier in the day, jurors asked Superior Court Judge Mary Staley for permission to replay a portion of taped telephone conversations that allegedly occurred between Daker and Blatz on Oct. 13 and 14, 1995. They also requested to hear a portion of an audiotaped interview between a Cobb County police detective and Daker.

Daker objected to the jury hearing only portions of the tapes and wanted them to hear the whole thing. Staley overruled the objection.

Evans, the lead prosecutor, said it is always more challenging procedurally to handle a defendant who is representing himself, especially one such as Daker, whom he described as “obviously very intelligent.” But Evans said he would not have tried the case any differently if he had been facing a defense attorney.

He said the facts and the evidence were the same, and he believed the verdict would have been the same.

“It’s a pretty strong case,” Evans said, “when you’re talking about his DNA found on the deceased’s body.”

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