Ackerson's own words paint pictures of Amanda and Grant Hayes
Posted January 28
Raleigh, N.C. — As Wake County prosecutors worked Tuesday to portray Amanda Hayes as a wife who was angry and resentful toward the woman she is accused of killing, defense attorneys put forth their own image of their client's husband, who they say controlled and manipulated her to the point that she was forced to help him get rid of the body.
Amanda Hayes, 41, is charged with first-degree murder and accessory after the fact to murder in the July 13, 2011, death of Laura Jean Ackerson. The 27-year-old Kinston woman’s remains were found in a Texas creek 1,200 miles from the Raleigh apartment, where authorities say she was killed and dismembered.
Hayes' husband, Grant Hayes – the father of Ackerson's two young sons – was convicted of murder in the case in September and is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Amanda Hayes' defense attorneys say she is not guilty of murder and didn't know anything about Ackerson's death until much later, when Grant Hayes threatened to kill her and his children if she didn't persuade her sister to help in disposing of Ackerson's remains.
But the state said in opening statements Monday that Amanda Hayes, who, along with her husband, was involved in a bitter custody fight with Ackerson, not only knew about the crime but admitted to her sister that she hurt Ackerson and that Ackerson was dead.
Amanda Hayes resented Ackerson so much, prosecutors contend, that she treated her as if she didn't exist – something Ackerson wrote about in a diary she kept that documented all her interactions with the Hayeses.
Lolita Chapman, a special agent for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, read entries from the log in which Ackerson expressed concerns about Amanda Hayes becoming increasingly upset with her when they met to pick up and drop off Ackerson's children for custody visits.
"She told me that she was responsible for my kids now, because I'm psycho crazy," Chapman read from an Aug. 23, 2010, diary entry. "I'm certain that Grant has given her the scenario that I'm wacko and that he needs her to help him protect the kids from me."
On Sept. 23, 2010, Ackerson wrote: "(Grant) has gotten Amanda so worked up toward me that, instead of now giving me a report on the kids, she looks at me with disdain."
Ackerson also had concerns that the Hayeses weren't encouraging the children – ages 2 and 1 at the time – to talk with her when she called, leaving her feeling "irrelevant."
"They act as though I don't exist. I have done nothing to Amanda," she wrote on Sept. 10, 2010. "But to them, I am psycho crazy. It is so discouraging to deal with them with my children."
Defense attorneys also used Ackerson's words to bolster their claims that Grant Hayes was a dangerous "sociopath" who used Amanda Hayes for her money. Both women, they say, were Grant Hayes' victims, and there "are enormous parallels" between how he treated them.
He allegedly likened himself to the main characters of movies, such as "Six Degrees of Separation" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley," told stories about people he had killed, pulled knives out in public places to threaten others and spent time with drug dealers and murderers.
"Grant is an abusive person, and I don't want to underestimate his potential for damaging behaviors," Heidi Schumacher read from Ackerson's answers to a 60-page parenting questionnaire that was part of a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation in the custody battle.
From page after page, Schumacher – Ackerson's best friend – read how Ackerson accused Grant Hayes of believing aliens who ran the country were following him and that he was "a chosen person hailed by beings from outer space."
Ackerson also wrote that Grant Hayes had "zero moral values," used his children as "social currency," slept with women to get what he wanted and lied about "everything from his marital status" to "what he ate for dinner."
"(Grant) wants me out of the picture. He wants to raise (the boys) to be what he hasn't achieved yet – his 401K plan, his retirement plan, his empire," Ackerson wrote.
Grant Hayes once had threatened to kill Ackerson, Schumacher testified, and two months prior to her death, a worried Ackerson called her to tell her that if anything happened to her or if she went missing to "know that Grant did it."
It was July 18, 2011, when Schumacher said she learned that Ackerson was missing.
"I dropped to my knees and started bawling," she recalled. "I sat in shock for about 12 hours because I knew she was dead."