From Stalker to Murderer to Justice: How Waseem Daker's Victims Prevailed

PHOTO: Waseem Daker and Loretta Spencer BlatzPlayABC News
WATCH Waseem Daker Sentenced: Victims React

Karmen Smith was Nick Smith's mother and Lottie Spencer's friend and roommate. Seventeen years after the attack in which she was killed and Nick Smith was stabbed 18 times, Nick Smith and Spencer said they can finally start living their lives.

Last week, Waseem Daker was convicted of murdering Karmen Smith and nearly killing her son -- when he was just five years old -- in the 1995 attack.

"He didn't break me," Smith told "20/20" co-anchor Chris Cuomo in his first interview since the incident. "He might have tried to ruin my life, but he didn't do it."

Also in her first interview ever, Lottie Spencer told Cuomo she met Daker in 1994 at an Atlanta-area paintball facility. They became friends, a friendship that Daker claimed was much more, she said.

"We were friendly because we were on the same team, that's it. Nothing else," said Spencer.

Watch the full story, including more of Spencer and Smith's first-ever interviews, on "20/20: Stalked!"

She said Daker spread rumors to their friends that their relationship was romantic, making her concerned enough to call Daker's family.

"I called his mom, and I spoke to his brother about it," Spencer said. "They said, 'We don't believe it. Anyways, he's sick; he just wants to be in a relationship with you, and he can't have you, and he's delusional.'"

Spencer said Daker's delusion turned into an obsession, with him calling her up to 100 times per day and showing up at her house every day at all hours.

"One day, my daughter and I were eating at Wendy's, and he just walks up and goes, 'We have so much in common,'" said Spencer. "I was thinking, 'Oh my God.' He would show up just everywhere I went, and he would always make it seem like a coincidence, and so right there and then I just knew [he was stalking me]."

Waseem Daker Case: Lottie Spencer Breaks Silence

Spencer said Daker's obsession grew extreme. He hid outside her office and called her saying he was in her house, in her daughter's closet. She rushed to see if it was true.

"He was hiding in my daughter's closet," Spencer said. "He came out with a gun, had it [pointed] at me first, then had it [pointed] to him. I talked him into putting it down, and I called his mom. His mom and brother came and got him and the gun."

Spencer said she didn't call the police, wanting instead for Daker to get the help she believed he needed. That decision is one Spencer said she'd come to regret.

In February 1995, Daker showed up at her house, she said, banging on her door, threatening to end her and her daughter's life.

"He said that he could get away with the perfect murder," said Spencer.

After that horrifying night, Spencer said, she finally called the police, who arrested Daker. She also obtained a restraining order. Soon after Daker's arrest, his mother called Spencer, assuring her she would get her son the help he needed, Spencer said. Spencer dropped the charges and restraining order.

"I was not out to get him," said Spencer. "I just wanted my life back."

Lottie Spencer packed up her daughter and moved across Atlanta to a new home. Her roommate was flight attendant Karmen Smith and Smith's five-year-old son, Nickolas. Spencer said she developed a much-needed friendship with Smith and was finally beginning to feel safe -- when her car was broken into.

Police believed Daker had broken into Spencer's car at her office and had found her new address in an address book. They took him into custody but released him a few days later. Spencer said her life became a living hell again.

"I knew when he was released because he had gotten into my car, and put the emergency brake up and slid my seat back. And I knew – 'Oh my God, he's out,'" Spencer said.

According to Spencer and court records, in October 1995, Daker called Spencer, but she didn't answer. He then called her roommate, Karmen Smith. That phone call terrified Spencer, coming after a year enduring Daker's obsessive stalking.

"I get a call from my daughter," said Spencer. "She is so hysterical. She is screaming that something happened to Nickolas."

Spencer said she came home to find her daughter with police and medics as Nickolas Smith lay covered in blood. Spencer immediately screamed out for Nickolas' mother, Karmen, who lay murdered in her own bed.

Nickolas Smith told Cuomo what happened on a day he will never forget.

"I had come home from school with Christina, who is Lottie's daughter, and my mom's car was in the driveway. I just assumed that she was there, so I went downstairs," he said.

"Mr. Daker grabbed me and started stabbing me," recalled Smith. "He was stabbing me and I started yelling Christina's name, because she was down the hall. And he covered my mouth so that I couldn't yell to her. After he stabbed me a bunch, I couldn't make out who exactly it was. I could tell it was a guy. Then I got up. I didn't really know what was happening. And then I fainted."

Nickolas Smith survived being stabbed 18 times. His mother, however, suffered a worse fate.

In last month's murder trial, Cobb County, Ga., lead prosecutor Jesse Evans painted a gruesome picture of what happened to Karmen Smith, a description that was paraphrased in a reporter's log of Evans' closing argument.

Nick and Christina were at school, Evans said. Karmen Smith was alone except for Waseem Daker. Daker silently entered Smith's home. She had a robe on, and he came up behind her and subdued her, then handcuffed her.

Daker pulled her pants down, took her bra off, and stabbed her in the back, Evans said. He wrapped a ligature around her neck, her face rubbing on the floor, and pulled it tighter and tighter as life flowed out of her. Then he picked her up, dragged her to her bed and tucked her underneath the covers, where no one could see her.

She lay there for hours, Evans said.

Without physical evidence directly linking Daker to the crime scene, authorities weren't able to charge the teenager with the murder. However, they were able to convict Daker for stalking Spencer prior to the killing. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"It's not enough, it's not enough," Spencer said she thought at the time. "I knew that he killed Karmen. Ten years is not enough for anybody, for what he did to her."

Nickolas Smith said he remembered the day he found out his attacker was being released from prison.

"My dad and my aunt took me to a park and told me that the man they thought did it was going to be getting out of jail," said Smith. "I was scared -- confused, kind of. If he had already gotten away with it, why would he come after me? Is he angry he's been in jail? Is he gonna come after me? Is he going to try to finish what he started? I didn't know what to think."

Lottie Spencer said she feared Daker would come after her now that he had been released.

"He's going to come after me and my daughter," Spencer recalled thinking. "Because he made threats that he would come after us, my grandchildren and future children."

Spencer and Smith were not the only ones waiting for Daker's release. Cobb County investigators were hard at work looking for any evidence that could tie Karmen Smith's murder and her son's attack to Daker.

Detectives said they combed through piles of evidence. They came upon a strand of hair found on Karmen Smith's body. Nuclear DNA tests, which weren't around at the time of the murder, showed it was an exact match for Waseem Daker, detectives said.

In September 2012, after years of hearings, investigations, depositions and delays, Daker appeared in a Georgia courtroom to stand trial for the murder of Karmen Smith and the attack of Nickolas Smith. This time, Daker chose to represent himself. His alleged victims would have to face him once more, this time from the witness stand.

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"The big benefit for us is he came off so creepy," said Jesse Evans. "Perhaps the biggest advantage is [that] I watched two of our star witnesses, Lottie Spencer and Nick Smith, get stronger and more decisive on the stand with each ... question that Daker asked them."

It was the ultimate showdown. Spencer, emotionally scarred by years of stalking, and Nick Smith, now 21 and still physically scarred from the stabbings, were forced to confront the man they feared most.

"You know that [Daker's] enjoying every little word that comes out of his mouth, that he gets to stand there across from you after all the things that he did," said Spencer. "It's torture -- I mean, because he was enjoying it."

After more than two weeks of testimony and more than 45 witnesses, Daker was found guilty on all 11 counts, including felony murder and assault. The judge, calling him a monster and a coward who she hoped never receives parole, sentenced him to life plus 47.5 years behind bars.

After the verdict was read, Spencer said, she finally felt free to live her life, felt that she could sleep in and take a shower -- things she hadn't been able to do very easily in years, always scared that Daker would come up behind her.

"It was amazing," Spencer said of Daker's conviction. "It was as if all this heaviness on my heart just was released."

"I don't really feel like anyone else is controlling my life anymore," said Smith.

Spencer said she carried the guilt of what happened and of not seeing the warning signs sooner. She hoped her life story will motivate others to do what she should have done when the stalking began, she said.

"If anybody is in a similar situation of being stalked and you feel uncomfortable in any way, your 'no' should be 'no,'" said Spencer. "Call the authorities immediately. Don't let it linger, because it's not going to stop. No matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter how many times you beg, there's nothing you can do to stop somebody that is so adamant about stalking you. There's nothing. Only the police can intervene and stop it."

Watch the full story, including more of Spencer and Smith's first-ever interviews, on "20/20: Stalked!"