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Best friend speaks of threats, violence in Ackerson relationship

Posted August 30, 2013

— A Raleigh man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend once threatened to kill her and her best friend in the parking lot of a local coffee shop, the friend told jurors Friday in his first-degree murder trial.

Karen Berry Full video: Grant Hayes murder trial

"He just went off and said, 'I have friends. I'm powerful. My friends are powerful, and I can kill you,'" Heidi Schumacher testified in Grant Hayes' trial of the profanity-laced exchange. "Then, he said, 'Don't (expletive) with me.'"

Unaware of why Hayes was angry at Laura Ackerson – his girlfriend at the time – Schumacher said she later obtained a concealed carry permit and purchased a gun.

"I guess they had been in arguments," she said. "I don't know what was going on in their lives that made it worse, that he would threaten both of us."

Nearly two years later when Raleigh police asked Schumacher what she thought might have happened to the missing 27-year-old from Kinston, "I told them that either Grant had her murdered or murdered her," she said.

By July 13, 2011, Hayes had married his wife, Amanda Hayes, had a 1-month-old daughter with her and had primary custody of the two young sons he shared with Ackerson.

Prosecutors allege the couple planned Ackerson's death and killed her in their home, cut up her remains and traveled 1,200 miles from Raleigh to Fort Bend County, Texas, where they dumped them in a creek across the street from the home of Amanda Hayes' sister.

The motive for the crime, prosecutor Boz Zellinger told jurors in opening statements Thursday, was that Grant Hayes wanted to rid Ackerson, embroiled in a bitter child custody dispute, from his family's life.

Grant Hayes Grant Hayes threatened ex, witness says

Schumacher testified that on another occasion in 2008, she was on the phone with Ackerson – pregnant with her oldest son – and heard Grant Hayes yelling at her and forbidding her to talk to Schumacher.

"I went over, because I was worried for her," Schumacher said.

She arrived to see Grant Hayes leaving in a car and Ackerson crying with a bloody nose that appeared to be broken.

Despite her friend's urging, Ackerson refused to go to the hospital or call police.

"She told me that, 'It's OK. It's OK. I'm not going to do anything. I'm not going to press charges,'" Schumacher said.

Ackerson also feared for her life, friends testified Thursday, and told them that if anything ever happened to her it would be because "Grant did it."

But defense attorney Will Durham, says it was Amanda Hayes – set to go to trial in January – who killed Ackerson during an argument while his client was in another room with his boys. He only made a "terrible decision" to cover up what his wife did.

The defense pointed out during the testimony of a North Carolina SBI agent that Ackerson recorded in her diary an occasion when Amanda Hayes called her "psycho crazy" and another when Ackerson confronted her about an emotional outburst in front of her sons.

Grant Hayes never went to police, Durham said, because he was afraid police would not believe that the death was unintentional.

James Gwartney, a Kinston police initially investigating Ackerson's disappearance, testified Friday that the Grant Hayes told him on July 18, 2011, that Ackerson showed up at his apartment five days earlier for a mid-week visit with her children and dropped them off nearly three hours later.

Gwartney said Grant Hayes also told him that he and Ackerson also talked about signing over custody of the boys to her. The conversation raised concerns for Gwartney, who contacted Raleigh police.

Meanwhile, the next day, Amanda Hayes' adult daughter, Sha Guddat, picked up the boys for several hours, she testified. When she returned several hours later, she said, she was met by her mother who asked to borrow a vacuum because hers had broken.

On a subsequent visit to the apartment while the Hayeses were in Texas, Guddat said she noticed a strong smell of bleach, but it wasn't until after their arrest on July 25, 2011, that she realized the hallway bathroom was empty – no shower curtain, shower lining, floor mat or toilet cover.

Another discovery she made, she said, was of an owner's manual for a handheld electric saw in a stack of papers.

Prosecutors say that in the days following Ackerson's death, Grant Hayes bought several items, including a duffle bag, several coolers and, in the hours after the crime, had gone to a local Walmart to buy a saw, extra blades and a tarp among other items.

"That's at 2:40 a.m. after Laura goes missing," Zellinger said.


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  • Obamacare rules Aug 30, 2013

    "Kate Gosselin is a good example of a verbally abusive wife, IMHO, and I'd bet she talks the same disrespectful way to her children that she did to her husband."

    And thus perpetuates the cycle of verbal and physical abuse. I think when children are subjected to abuse they begin to think it's normal and in most cases end up in an abusive relationship as adults.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Aug 30, 2013

    DTB - "If a man (or a woman) assaults you- call the police!!"

    I did that. He went to jail. When he got out, things were worse for me than before.

    Until one can be sure they can get themselves to absolute safety, calling the authorities can prove dangerous for them because the law cannot go far enough to protect them until the abuser causes serious bodily injury or kills them.

    That little loophole in the law needs to be plugged.

    If someone/anyone threatens you with bodily harm in front of witnesses - that should count as serious in they eyes of the law as actually assaulting or killing you, but presently, it doesn't.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Aug 30, 2013

    BANMD - "Why is Grant Hayes not in an orange jump suit with shackles around his hands and legs? Why is he in street clothes..."

    I think "hearings" and such before judges and magistrates are done in prison garb, but actual jury "trials" are in street clothes (usually VERY spiffed up to make them look respectable), it's said so the jury will not be unduly influenced by their garb.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Aug 30, 2013

    CT - "It is NOT always the man who is the abuser, women abuser a SIGNIFICANT amount, but no man will accuse, because they do not want to look weak."

    You're right! Which is why I've always tried to remain gender neutral except when sharing about my own experiences.

    Some women can be very verbally abusive, emasculating a man, sometimes with just a certain look.

    Kate Gosselin is a good example of a verbally abusive wife, IMHO, and I'd bet she talks the same disrespectful way to her children that she did to her husband.

  • SurvivorOne Aug 30, 2013

    Why is Grant Hayes not in an orange jump suit with shackles around his hands and legs? Why is he in street clothes, smiling like he is about to get a free lunch? He needs to be treated like the killer he is!

  • computer trainer Aug 30, 2013

    It is NOT always the man who is the abuser, women abuser a SIGNIFICANT amount, but no man will accuse, because they do not want to look weak. In this case, it appears VERY likely that he abused her and killed her, OR ordered his wife to kill her.

  • Trusting Aug 30, 2013

    2 hits and out at same time - the first and last

  • dwntwnboy2 Aug 30, 2013

    "It's OK. It's OK. I'm not going to do anything. I'm not going to press charges."- how many other women have wound up dead after uttering similar phrases? If a man (or a woman) assaults you- call the police!! That way at least it's on record that it happened at all. These women that get beat up and yet continue to stay in abusive relationships astound me. Be brave, there is help, get away from someone who doesn't love you enough NOT to beat you.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Aug 30, 2013

    In Decisive - "Lesson to all individuals in a relationship: the first time your partner hits you should be the last time they ever touch you. One strike and you're out should be everyone's motto."

    It's not always easy for someone to leave.

    Sometimes these abusers isolate a person so that they don't have a way to get away, except with time and very careful planning.

    I've been there, so I know. Lack of self-esteem was never my problem. He managed to disable my car somehow which resulted in me losing my job. Then I was home bound with no way to get anywhere except by his graces.

    They are very cunning - and insane, in my opinion.

    He was so charming to others, no one believed he was an abuser, even with all the bruises on my arms and face to prove it.

    The only ones that finally believed it were friends who were also police officers. They'd seen the marks on others before and knew there was only one way a person would get them.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Aug 30, 2013

    Obamacare - "He's going to end up in a place where he'll never display that arrogant smirk ever again."

    Or...he may end up mesmerizing enough people in prison to be safe, and maybe even build a cult-like following there because he has that much delusional charisma.

    One never knows!