Wake County jury set to deliberate Grant Hayes case

ablythe@newsobserver.comSeptember 13, 2013 

— The Wake County jury tasked with deciding the fate of Grant Hayes, the musician accused of murdering and dismembering the mother of two of his children, is set to begin deliberations Monday.

Hayes, 34, has been on trial for the past two weeks, accused of killing Laura Jean Ackerson, the mother of his two preschool-age sons.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent Friday afternoon knitting together testimony from nearly 50 witnesses with the more than 500 pieces of evidence in closing arguments.

Prosecutors argued that Hayes, embroiled in a bitter custody fight, lured Ackerson, 27, from Kinston to Raleigh on July 13, 2011, and killed her as part of a malicious plot.

Amanda Hayes, 41, the wife of Grant Hayes, also is accused of murder in Ackerson’s death, but her trial is not scheduled until January.

Defense attorneys argued that the prosecution had offered no evidence that Grant Hayes killed Ackerson. They conceded in their opening statement that Hayes took part in the dismembering and the disposing of Ackerson’s body in a Texas creek.

Will Durham, one of Hayes’ defense attorneys, urged jurors not to get sidetracked by the saws and acid that prosecutors talked about as they described the dismembering of Ackerson’s body.

Jeff Cutler, also on the defense team, acknowledged that many facts of the case were disconcerting.

“This is a sad case, a very nasty case,” Cutler told the jurors. “Very nasty things occurred.”

But Cutler argued that prosecutors had not proven how Ackerson died or who killed her.

“They want you to convict Grant Hayes because of the things he did, not because they have proven he killed Laura Ackerson,” Cutler said.

Defense attorneys have pointed the finger at Amanda Hayes, arguing that she killed Ackerson in a “spontaneous, unpredictable way.” Grant Hayes, they argued, participated in the dismemberment of the woman who gave birth to his sons, Grant IV and Gentle, as part of a “cover-up” for his wife’s actions.

Becky Holt, one of the Wake County assistant district attorneys who tried the case, countered that prosecutors were not trying to persuade jurors to convict Grant Hayes just because of the gruesome events after Ackerson’s death.

They argued that he acted in concert with Amanda Hayes in a plot to get rid of Ackerson.

“He robbed her of her life, of her dignity, and he tried to get away with it every way he could,” Holt said.

The jury that deliberates the case will be instructed to consider first-degree murder, which includes the acting in concert theory, and second-degree murder.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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