Murder trial of Amanda Hayes begins in Raleigh on Tuesday

ablythe@newsobserver.comJanuary 20, 2014 

— Grant Hayes, a musician convicted this fall of murdering the mother of his two children, soon could be back in the same courthouse where he was sentenced to life in prison.

The murder trial of Amanda Hayes, his wife, is set to begin Tuesday with jury selection, and Grant Hayes, 34, could be called as a witness in the case.

The Hayeses were arrested in the summer of 2011 and accused of murdering Laura Jean Ackerson, the mother of his Grant Hayes’ two sons.

Ackerson, a 27-year-old woman from Kinston, was killed on July 13, 2011, in the Raleigh apartment of Grant and Amanda Hayes, prosecutors contend.

At the trial of Grant Hayes in late August and early September, his lawyers argued that Amanda Hayes accidentally killed Ackerson while her husband was out of the room.

The couple then panicked, according to the defense, and began an elaborate and gruesome scheme to dismember and dispose of Ackerson’s body in a Texas creek.

Detectives have said Ackerson’s 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.

During that time, Ackerson’s friends and family had been asking over and over: “Where’s Laura,” according to testimony during Grant Hayes’ trial.

Ackerson’s body was discovered 11 days after she was killed.

Prosecutors argued that Grant Hayes lured Ackerson to his Raleigh apartment, amid a bitter custody dispute, and either acted in concert with Amanda Hayes in her death or was responsible for the “malicious plot” that killed her.

The defense team for Amanda Hayes has given a glimpse of her defense in court documents and pre-trial hearings.

They contend Amanda Hayes has an alibi for the time of Ackerson’s death and was coerced into helping dispose of the body.

They have characterized Grant Hayes as an intimidator who threatened Amanda Hayes before and after her arrest. They say he sent a letter from the Wake County jail after his arrest in 2011, in which he threatened to kill Amanda Hayes.

But lawyers for Grant Hayes described the case as one that was “about a man covering up his wife’s actions.” They argued that the homicide was “not something that was planned. But it was something that happened.”

The jury deliberated for no more than 90 minutes before finding Grant Hayes guilty of first-degree murder, a conviction that brings an automatic sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for a person his age.

He has appealed the verdict.

Because that appeal is pending, Hayes could invoke his Fifth Amendment right if called to testify on the grounds that anything he said might damage his chances in further court proceedings.

Weeks after Grant Hayes was convicted, Amanda Hayes was charged with accessory after the fact of murder, in addition to murder.

Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

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