Ex-boyfriend to be tried first in Ackerson murder
Posted April 24, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County prosecutors said Wednesday that they will try Grant Hayes first, followed by his wife, Amanda Hayes, in the death of his ex-girlfriend and the mother of two of his children.
His trial date is set for Aug. 26.
The Hayeses are each charged with first-degree murder in the July 2011 death of Laura Jean Ackerson. They were to be tried together next month, but Judge Donald Stephens on Monday ordered separate trials.
Stephens cited concerns of a mistrial and denying each defendant their right to a fair trial in separating the cases because it appeared their defenses would conflict with each other.
Grant Hayes' attorney filed a motion to sever the joint trial after Amanda Hayes' attorney filed several motions claiming that she participated in Ackerson's death while under duress, feared for her life and that Grant Hayes, while in jail, threatened to kill her.
The state opposed the motion, arguing that the investigation shows that both defendants were equally culpable and should be tried together.
Amanda Hayes' trial date has not been rescheduled.
Stephens pushed back Grant Hayes' trial to August to allow his defense attorney, Jeff Cutler, more time to work on the case. He also ordered a second attorney be assigned to the case so that the trial won't be delayed again.
Cutler is the third public defender appointed to Grant Hayes. The first two attorneys cited ethical issues in defending him, but neither have state what those issues were.
Ackerson, the mother of two of Grant Hayes' children, disappeared in mid-July 2011 after she was last known to be in Raleigh with her children. Her remains were found July 24, 2011, in a creek in Richmond, Texas – about 60 miles south of Houston – where Amanda Hayes' sister lives.
Prosecutors have not publicly spoken of a motive, saying in court only that Ackerson's death was the result of domestic violence and that there is a "tremendous amount" of evidence against Grant Hayes.
Ackerson's family members have said the two were in a custody battle over the children.
How the 27-year-old Ackerson died is unclear. Medical examiners found injuries that suggested a sharp force injury to her neck, but there were also signs that someone tried to strangle her.