RALEIGH — Amanda Hayes worked as a cosmetologist, real estate agent and actress with minor TV parts in “The O.C.,” “The Sopranos” and “The Stepford Wives” before moving to the Virgin Islands and opening an art supply store with her daughter.
It was while the two lived on the island in the Caribbean that Grant Hayes, a musician and talented sketchbook artist, came into their lives.
Some four years later, mother and daughter sat across from each other in a Wake County Superior Court room. Amanda Hayes, accused of working in concert with Grant Hayes to kill the mother of his two sons, sat at the table with her defense team.
Sha Guddat, the daughter of Amanda Hayes who now is in her 20s, sat at the witness stand responding to questions from prosecutors. Her testimony, incomplete at the end of the day, was brief. She mostly described how her mother met Grant Hayes.
Grant Hayes was convicted in September of murdering Laura Jean Ackerson, the Kinston woman with whom he had two sons. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility for parole, but has appealed the verdict.
Amanda Hayes, through her attorneys, contends that she did not participate in the killing and dismembering of Ackerson, whose remains were found in a Texas creek on July 24, 2011.
Attorneys for Amanda Hayes contended in opening statements on Monday that their client was a victim in the crime, too, that she was manipulated into helping to dispose of Ackerson’s body by a husband who manipulated, coerced and threatened her.
Guddat, who also testified at the trial of Grant Hayes, was living in North Carolina in 2011 when her mother called on July 14 and asked to borrow a vacuum cleaner.
Prosecutors contend that Ackerson was killed on July 13 in the Wake County apartment that Grant and Amanda Hayes shared with their infant daughter.
Attorneys for Grant Hayes contended during his trial that he did not kill Ackerson, that Amanda Hayes did. They conceded that he helped with the dismemberment and disposal of the body.
But attorneys for Amanda Hayes argued that Grant Hayes was a charming sociopath who made her lie for him.
Though Amanda Hayes several years earlier had nearly $188,000 and almost $70,000 of jewelry, the money had disappeared, and most of the jewelry had been pawned while she was with Grant Hayes.
Prosecutors contend Ackerson was killed while the couple were embroiled in a bitter custody battle over the two boys.
But attorneys for Amanda Hayes contend their client tried to be a peacekeeper and was not at home when the homicide happened.
Guddat had been at the witness stand for less than half an hour when Judge Donald Stephens ended court for the day and sent jurors home.
The wintry weather could delay testimony, but Guddat is expected to pick up where she left off, describing her time in North Carolina with her mother and Grant Hayes.
Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1