The bizarre case of a retired Florida firefighter accused in the grisly death of a friend inside his Lake Oconee mansion took another unusual turn Monday when a judge granted Chad Haufler bond, reversing the decision he made more than two months ago.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge William A. Prior had little choice. Georgia law, with minimal exception, gives criminal defendants the right to a bond within 90 days of their arrest. It has been 83 days since Haufler was charged in the murder of Marc Dimos, and prosecutors acknowledged they would not have the case ready to present to a grand jury by next week.
Haufler emerged from jail late Monday afternoon offering condolences to the family of Marc Dimos. Haufler is alleged to have bludgeoned Dimos with a stainless steel popcorn kettle before shooting him in the face.
“I think it was self-defense,” Haufler told Channel 2 Action News. “I wouldn’t say I murdered him.”
Bond was set at $750,000. Haufler, who was initially denied bond because he lacked any ties to the community, won’t be able to leave Greene County without the court’s permission. He’ll reside in his recently purchased $1.9 million home on Lake Oconee, where Dimos was killed.
Greene Assistant District Attorney Allison Mauldin said the delay in indicting Haufler should not be interpreted as prosecutorial indecision.
“We just haven’t gotten everything back yet from the state crime lab,” Mauldin said. Crucial blood and DNA evidence has yet to be returned, she said, adding that she’s hopeful the case will be ready when the next grand jury convenes during the last week of January.
Former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said such delays are uncommon but not unprecedented.
“Better to wait until you have enough evidence not just to indict but to win the case,” said James, now a defense lawyer. “They have to be very unequivocal.”
Mauldin said the case is likely to be decided on physical evidence. GBI Agent Michael Maybin testified at a probable cause hearing that while it’s likely that Haufler and Dimos fought in the basement, Haufler went upstairs to retrieve his gun, returned and shot the already bloody and battered Dimos, who was visiting from Ohio.
That account would seem to contradict Haufler’s claim of self-defense. He said he remembers little about the incident other than waking up in a chokehold, struggling to breathe. Haufler’s lawyer, Manny Arora, blames his client’s fuzzy memory on a night of heavy drinking.
Haufler offered several versions of what happened inside his home in the early morning hours of August 28. He told a 911 operator he shot an intruder, then told deputies 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.”
Finally, he told investigators he assumed Dimos had attacked him because “we were the only two there.”
Arora said there were clear signs of a fight, noting Haufler had bruises on his back and elbows.
And he has hammered away at the state’s lack of motive. Haufler, who has no history of violence, had invited Dimos to Georgia for some “guy time,” Arora said. They had met the previous October while hunting elk in Colorado and became fast friends.
Mauldin said she still worries that Haufler, because of his wealth, is a flight risk. As conditions of his bond he was ordered to turn over his passport, fitted with an ankle monitor, and prohibited from consuming alcohol.