Evidence of acid found in Ackerson murder cover-up
Posted February 4, 2014
Updated February 5, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A forensic dentist testified Tuesday that acid etching on a tooth recovered from Laura Ackerson's remains three years ago was consistent with a type of acid commonly used in construction.
But Dr. Paul Stimson said he couldn't be sure that the slight dental erosion on the tooth's surface was from muriatic acid, and it was possible it could have come from a number of other types of acid.
Wake County prosecutors trying Amanda Hayes for first-degree murder in Ackerson's 2011 death appear to be laying out their case that she and her husband initially used the acid to try to get rid of Ackerson's body before dumping it in a creek across the street from Amanda Hayes' sister's home just outside Richmond, Texas.
The state contends Hayes, 41, and Grant Hayes killed the 27-year-old Ackerson at their Raleigh apartment, cut up her body, and, four days later, drove it to Karen Berry's home to cover up the crime.
On Monday, a forensic chemist testified that discolored soil taken from a hog pen on Berry's property had traces of muriatic acid in it.
Raymond Boyer, an employee at a Home Depot in Katy, Texas – about 20 miles from Richmond – testified that Grant Hayes walked into the store on July 19, 2011, looking for acid because he wanted to use it to get rid of the odor from a hog pen.
"I tried to sell him a shovel," Boyer said, explaining for jurors that the only way to get rid of the odor would be to replace the dirt.
But Grant Hayes was insistent about the acid, so Boyer said he sold him four boxes – each containing two 1-gallon bottles – as well as a pair of protective gloves and a 32-gallon plastic trash can.
"He asked me what I recommended for his problem," Boyer said, "but he didn't want my advice."
The purchase, Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office investigator Brad Wichard testified Monday, was made less than an hour after Amanda Hayes withdrew cash from an ATM across the street from the home improvement store.
Wichard also said that four boxes of acid were later found on a dead-end street about 1.5 miles from Berry's property and that there were security photos related to that. Jurors, however, didn't hear who put the bottles there.
By July 25, 2011, authorities had recovered Ackerson's torso, parts of her legs and her head, which Brian Davis, a diver with the Houston Police Department, testified was so disfigured that he initially thought it was a leg bone.
Dr. Nobby Mambo, deputy chief medical examiner of the Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office, said Ackerson's head was in such a bad state that her skin was falling off the skull but that there were no fractures or injuries to the head.
There was, however, evidence that blood had collected on the back right portion of her scalp, Mambo said. But he couldn't determine if the bleeding occurred before or after her death.
On cross-examination by the defense, Mambo said the bleeding could have occurred as the result of a fall but said that such a fall would not have been fatal.
The defense has maintained that Ackerson tripped in the Hayeses' home on July 13, 2011, and that Grant Hayes had his wife leave with their children – two young boys he shared with Ackerson and a 1-month-old girl – so they would not see their injured mother.
When Amanda Hayes returned, the defense says, Grant Hayes told her that Ackerson was actually OK and had left to go home.
It wasn't until the Hayeses arrived in Texas that she learned Ackerson had died.
By that time, defense attorneys say, Grant Hayes needed her help to persuade Berry to help them dispose of the remains, so she admitted to hurting Ackerson – but only because Grant Hayes had threatened to harm or kill her and their children.
But prosecutors say she did know and that she was resentful of and angry at Ackerson who was in the middle of a child custody fight.
Jurors saw security video of Amanda Hayes and the children at a Raleigh Chick-fil-A on the night of Ackerson's death. They also heard about a July 16, 2011, receipt for two ice coolers that police found in Amanda Hayes' purse.
Raleigh police detective Sgt. Brian Hall also testified to finding several items in the dumpster trash from the couple's apartment, such as a black shower curtain and mats that had been missing from a hallway bathroom that had been empty and "practically sterile" when police searched the home.
Other items recovered from the trash included several ice bags, two respirator masks, packaging for medium yellow household gloves, a discolored towel, blue rubber gloves and packaging for a pre-paid cellphone.