Ackerson worried about her safety, attorney says
Posted February 7, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Months before her July 13, 2011, death, Laura Ackerson expressed concerns about her safety to the Kinston attorney she hired to represent her in a custody battle with her ex-boyfriend over their young sons, the attorney testified Friday in the first-degree murder trial of Amanda Hayes.
"She didn't know what he would do," John Sargeant told jurors of the March 2011 conversation with the 27-year-old Ackerson, whom Wake County prosecutors say Hayes killed in the Raleigh apartment she shared with her husband, Grant Hayes.
By the time of the conversation, Sargeant said, Ackerson had received the results of a court-ordered psychological evaluation and was optimistic that she might get, at a minimum, split custody of her boys, who were in the primary care of their father and whom she only saw on weekends.
"The prevailing thought was the evaluation was going to come out in her favor, and Mr. Hayes knew the evaluation wasn't going his way," Sargeant said. "She was afraid they might do something to hurt her to get an advantage in the custody case."
Grant Hayes had claimed in June 2010 that Ackerson was mentally unstable. Ackerson, meanwhile, had accused Hayes of being a substance abuser.
In advance of an August 2011 court hearing, however, Ackerson had made positive changes in her life, Sargeant said, and was optimistic that a family court judge would rule in her favor.
"She felt really good about the (psychological) evaluation," he said. "We felt it was absolutely favorable. Some of the things alleged by Mr. Hayes – she didn't find that any of those things were true."
But a month before the custody hearing, Wake County prosecutors say, Grant and Amanda Hayes killed Ackerson in their Raleigh apartment and disposed of her dismembered remains in a Texas creek.
Grant Hayes was found guilty of the crime in September, and prosecutors, now in their second week of testimony in Amanda Hayes' trial, are seeking to prove, in part, that she was resentful of and angry at Ackerson as a result of the custody fight.
Defense attorneys contend their client, who is also charged with accessory after the fact to murder, had no knowledge of Ackerson's death and that she helped in the cover-up only because Grant Hayes – who they claim is a sociopath – lied to and manipulated her and then threatened to kill her if she didn't help dispose of the body.
Psychologist Ginger Calloway, who performed the court-ordered evaluation on Grant Hayes and Ackerson, said on cross-examination that she made a number of observations about Grant Hayes and recommended that he see a psychiatrist about a possible mood disorder "or other possible explanations for the illogical, disturbed thinking that he exhibits."
But prosecutors pointed out for jurors that she also made a number of observations about both of the Hayeses.
Calloway testified that she observed that the wishes, comments and actions of the couple suggested that they "would effectively erase Laura as the children's mother."
"There was a collective insensitivity to the children's needs for their mother," she said.
Calloway said it was obvious that Grant and Amanda Hayes didn't want Ackerson in the children's lives.
Prosecutors said Friday that they are nearing the end of their case and that they could rest on Monday.