RALEIGH — Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a Wake County musician accused of murdering the mother of two of his children.
Grant Ruffin Hayes, 34, stands accused of killing Laura Jean Ackerson in July 2011, a woman from Kinston whose dismembered body was found in a Texas creek days after she was reported missing.
Hayes and the woman he describes as his wife, Amanda Perry Hayes, 40, are both charged with first-degree murder in Ackersons death. Grant Hayes pleaded not guilty on Aug. 16.
Initially, prosecutors planned to try the couple together, but Judge Donald Stephens ruled in April that it would be best to separate their trials in the interest of fairness for each.
Members of Ackersons family say she was involved in an acrimonious custody battle with Grant Hayes in Lenoir County.
Investigators believe that at least one of the Hayeses killed Ackerson and hacked her body into pieces. They contend the death occurred on July 13, 2011.
It is not clear, however, how she died. The cause of death listed on an autopsy report was undetermined homicidal violence.
Detectives say Ackersons remains were placed in several large coolers, loaded into a rented U-Haul trailer that the Hayeses then towed more than 1,250 miles to the home of Amanda Hayes sister, and then dumped in a creek about 100 yards from the house.
Her body was discovered by authorities in Richmond, Texas, near Houston on July 24, 2011.
Amanda Hayes has not said whether she will testify at the trial of Grant Hayes.
Defense lawyers Johnny Gaskins and Rosemary Godwin said in mid-August that without hearing evidence against Grant Hayes, who also goes by the name Grant Haze, it was too early for them to decide what level of involvement Amanda Hayes would have in this months trial.
Attorneys for Amanda Hayes, who is scheduled to be tried in January, have contended in court documents that Grant Hayes intimidated her before and after her arrest. Her attorneys say Grant Hayes sent a letter from the Wake County jail after his arrest in which he threatened to kill Amanda Hayes.
They also say Amanda Hayes has an alibi for the time of Ackersons death but was coerced into helping dispose of the body.
Attorneys have said the trial could last two to three weeks after a jury is seated. It was not clear how long it would take to select 12 jurors and the alternates who could step in if someone could not serve through a verdict.