Amanda Hayes sister: 'She told me she had done it'
Posted February 5
Raleigh, N.C. — Testifying Wednesday in the first-degree murder trial of Amanda Hayes, her older sister said Hayes confessed during a three-day trip to her Texas home that she killed her husband's ex-girlfriend in an argument.
"She told me she needed to talk to me. It was serious," Karen Berry said during nearly two hours of testimony, some of which was tearful. "She told me Laura was dead, and she had done it."
That conversation happened on the morning of Tuesday, July 19, 2011, six days after Wake County prosecutors say 27-year-old Laura Jean Ackerson was murdered in Hayes' Raleigh apartment during a visit with the two children she had with Grant Hayes, Amanda Hayes' husband.
Wake County prosecutors – who contend that Amanda Hayes, 41, was resentful of Ackerson because of a child custody battle – say the Hayeses then cut up Ackerson's body and carried it in coolers to Richmond, Texas, where they arrived at Berry's home on Monday, July 18, 2011.
"She told me Laura had told her (Amanda) that she had taken her children, and she (Laura) was going to take hers (Amanda's 1-month-old daughter) away from her," Berry said. "I think I didn't want to believe she told me she was dead."
During a second conversation later that morning with both the Hayeses, Berry said, Grant Hayes – who was convicted in September – asked about acid and a septic tank, among other things, relating to places to Ackerson's remains.
"They had asked me if I knew of any property where there was a big hole," Berry said. "I told them I didn't."
That night, she continued, the Hayeses took what they said was a fishing trip on an alligator-infested creek across the street from the Berry home.
By Wednesday morning, July 20, 2011, Berry said, she was ready for them to leave.
"I just wanted them to be gone, just to leave," she said. "I didn't want to be involved in this."
Defense attorneys for Amanda Hayes contend their client thought Ackerson tripped and hurt her head while visiting the apartment and that she thought she was OK when she returned home that night to find Ackerson's car gone and Grant Hayes assuring her that the fall was only a bump on the head.
It was sometime between the Monday and Tuesday after they arrived in Texas, the defense says, that Grant Hayes told her Ackerson had actually died and then threatened to kill his wife and the children if she didn't get Berry's help to dispose of Ackerson's remains in the creek.
Amanda Hayes' statements and actions appeared to support the defense's contention.
Berry said that when her sister initially talked to her days before the visit, Ackerson's sons weren't part of the plans because they were scheduled to be with their mother. But when it appeared as if Ackerson never showed up to get them, they were then set for the visit.
On that Monday, she said, Amanda Hayes also talked about shortening the visit so they had to get back to North Carolina in time for their upcoming visit with their mother.
Throughout that day, she added, everything appeared normal.
"There was not a hint of anything unusual, was it?" defense attorney Johnny Gaskins asked.
"Not at all," Berry replied.
By Wednesday morning, Berry said, she wasn't sure what to think or believe and pulled her sister aside to ask if she was covering for Grant Hayes.
"It was like the look she gave when she was a little girl. She just kind of melted," Berry said. "She never said a word, but she nodded her head yes."
The Hayeses left that day but left Berry doubtful of what she heard. She grew more concerned after learning of news reports in Raleigh that Ackerson was missing.
"I was starting to believe more that this had happened," she said. "I was basically scared someone was going to call me and tell me they found Amanda and the kids dead somewhere."
The Hayeses had been gone for about four days, when Raleigh police detectives arrived on Berry's doorsteps on Sunday, July 24, 2011.
She had been in her living room reading her Bible and praying, Berry testified, and before doing an interview with them, asked if she could pray.
"I just needed to say a prayer for God to give me the strength to tell them what they needed to know," Berry said.