Chad Haufler told investigators he didn’t remember beating his friend with a stainless steel popcorn kettle, as alleged.
He remembers waking up in a chokehold, unable to breathe and fighting for his life, GBI agent Michael Maybin testified Thursday at a probable cause hearing in Greene County. How did he free himself? Haufler, a retired firefighter from Ocala, Fla., who had just recently purchased a home inside the exclusive Reynolds Lake Oconee community, couldn’t recall.
Maybin said Haufler, 45, didn’t remember getting his gun, which he kept upstairs in his bedroom, and shooting Marc Dimos, who had come down from Ohio to join him for some guy time. Haufler’s case was bound over to a grand jury, with a murder indictment all but certain to follow.
The suspect and victim hadn’t known each other long. They met in October while hunting elk in Colorado and became fast friends. Maybin testified Haufler was having marital problems and hoped Dimos might be able to offer some sage advice.
Dimos, 51, arrived on Sunday, two days before he would be found dead. At 4:13 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 28, Dimos texted, from Haufler’s basement, a picture of a bottle of rum and another of Coke with the caption, “Capt. Jack Sparrow.”
“Was there any motive for Mr. Haufler to kill Mr. Dimos that you’re aware of?” defense attorney Manny Arora asked Maybin on cross-examination.
Maybin said there was not, and while prosecutors are not required to prove motive, the absence of one plays into the defense’s theory that Haufler acted in self-defense when he killed his friend.
But Haufler did his attorneys no favors with his initial accounts of what happened inside the $1.9 million home. He told the 911 operator he shot an intruder. Then to the deputies first on the scene, Haufler said he shot “two, maybe three” intruders, according to Maybin. At first he said they were strangers. Then he said he knew the men.
Maybin said Haufler even suggested a hit had been taken out on him and “his wife may be involved somehow.”
But there were no intruders, no hit men. Under questioning, Haufler settled on the self-defense narrative, telling Maybin he assumed it was Dimos who attacked him because “we were the only two there.” He offered scarce detail, saying he remembered falling asleep watching the TV show “Practical Jokers” in the basement of his new home and little else.
When taken in for questioning, Maybin said Haufler thought it was early Monday evening, Aug. 27. It was actually the following morning.
A BRUTAL DEATH
Dimos, Maybin testified, was hit at least twice with the popcorn kettle, which was dented and drenched with Dimos’ blood. Investigators believe Dimos managed to drag himself some 15 to 20 feet to a sofa in Haufler’s basement, where he was shot once in the face. Two pools of blood marked the point of attack and the fatal shooting, Maybin testified.
Haufler was not bleeding at all, Maybin said. There were some minor cuts and abrasions on his face, and a few bruises on his arm and thigh. Maybin allowed that the two men “could very well” have gotten into a fight.
On paper, Dimos held a significant advantage — 4 inches taller, 50 pounds heavier. But Dimos also suffered from Lewy body disease and Parkinson’s, which affected the right side of his body, making him weak.
Family members told investigators the disease had rendered him so uncoordinated, “children could push him over,” Maybin said.
But Arora said when Dimos joined Haufler and others on a fishing trip this summer, he held his own.
The defense lawyer also noted that Dimos’ medical condition can result in frightening hallucinations. Family members said that while they occurred, Dimos never reacted violently.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley said that while questions remain, “I think it’s pretty clear we got two men in a house, just two men, and the defendant, by his own statement, shoots and kills a man who he had just beaten.”
While the state contends Haufler’s memory lapses indicate he has something to hide, Arora said the opposite is true.
“The fact that he can’t remember hurts our case,” said Arora, who attributes his client’s poor recall to heavy drinking. “It sort of flips the burden of proof to our side.”
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