Appeals court upholds Grant Hayes murder conviction

The N.C. Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected an appeal for a new trial by Grant Hayes, the former musician accused of killing the mother of his two sons.

Hayes contended a jury’s verdict in 2013, finding him guilty of murdering Laura Jean Ackerson in 2011, was based on numerous errors at trial.

He complained that violent song lyrics found in his apartment were inflammatory and prejudiced a jury against him. He also contended a psychologist’s report describing his state of mind, illegal drug use and potential mental illness also should not have been allowed into testimony.

A three-judge appeals court panel disagreed.

“We hold that defendant received a fair trial, free from prejudicial error,” Judge Rick Elmore said in the ruling. Judges Mark Davis and John M. Tyson concurred.

Defense attorneys for Hayes argued before the appeals court in January that the trial judge should not have let jurors hear testimony from a psychologist about his mental health following a break-up in 2010 with Ackerson.

Hayes and Ackerson had lived together and had two children when they separated in June 2010. They turned to Ginger Calloway, a psychologist who evaluated Hayes, after that. A court decided that Hayes would have weekday custody of the children and Ackerson would have weekend custody while that evaluation was ongoing.

During the trial, Calloway testified that Hayes told her during one of those sessions that he wanted “to obliterate” Ackerson. The psychologist also suggested that Hayes might suffer from mental illness, had used illicit drugs and had a “character for untruthfulness.”

It was after that breakup, while Hayes was married to Amanda Hayes, a former actress and the mother of his youngest child, that police say a custody battle ended in violence.

Grant and Amanda Hayes were living in Raleigh in the summer of 2011 when the homicide occurred. Amid the custody battle, Hayes called Ackerson from her Kinston home to visit the children in July 2011.

Ackerson drove to Raleigh and was never heard from again.

Her body was found dismembered in a creek in Texas near the home of Amanda Hayes’ sister. Investigators contended that Hayes killed Ackerson inside his Raleigh apartment. They say her body was dismembered there, then the Hayeses hauled the body parts to Texas in a rented trailer.

Amanda Hayes was found guilty of second-degree murder in a subsequent trial. She was sentenced to 13 to 16 years in prison.

Grant Hayes was sentenced to life in prison without possibility for parole.

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