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Hayes complained of financial strain from 'nasty' custody battle with slain ex

Posted September 9, 2013
Updated September 10, 2013

Grant Hayes listens to testimony in his first-degree murder trial on Sept. 5, 2013.
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— A Raleigh man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend wrote in a Facebook message four months before her death that a "nasty" custody dispute between the two over their 2- and 3-year-old sons was draining him of his savings.

Karen Berry Full video: Grant Hayes murder trial

"Eight-five grand in legal fees, forensic evaluators, shrinks … all on me, of course," Grant Hayes, 34, wrote in the March 15, 2011, message to a friend. "The good news is that the courts gave primary custody to me of both boys in a temporary order … The bad news is that I've gone from having the financial security to allow my wife and I to stay home all day to selling jewelry just to keep the lawyers on the case and the lights on."

Further Facebook messages – revealed to jurors Monday in Hayes' first-degree murder trial – have him characterizing 27-year-old Laura Ackerson as a "woman scorned" who was after him for his money and "making life for me as difficult as possible."

"My ex, Laura, was crazy, and I didn't know it 'til it was too late," Hayes wrote in a May 24, 2011, message. "We had two kids together, and she's still putting me through hell. I've been married over a year to another woman, and I still have to hear her voice every day."

In a message on July 12, 2011, a day before prosecutors say Ackerson was killed, Hayes told a friend that he decided he was "just gonna let Laura keep the boys."

"N.C. ain't gonna let me share custody unless I stay here, and I just can't make a living around here," wrote Hayes, a musician who traveled around the country performing and had moved from New York to Raleigh as part of a temporary custody arrangement.

Wake County prosecutors claim it was the custody battle that led Hayes to plan and carry out Ackerson's death at the northwest Raleigh apartment he shared with his wife, Amanda Hayes, and that the couple then cut up her body, drove to Texas with the remains packed in coolers and threw them in a creek near a relative's home.

Laura Ackerson State's case against Hayes could wrap this week

Defense attorneys, however, say Ackerson had given up the custody fight in exchange for $25,000 and that it was Amanda Hayes, 41, upset about the arrangement, who killed Ackerson during an argument.

Grant Hayes, his attorneys contend, helped dispose of Ackerson's remains to cover up his wife's actions, because no one would believe the death was unplanned.

Ten days after Ackerson's disappearance and two days before his arrest, however, Grant Hayes was telling friends on Facebook that police had trashed his home during a search, took his SUV and that the ordeal he was going through was like a bad movie.

"If Laura don't show up soon, I may be in for the fight of my life, and I'm really scared," he wrote on July 23, 2011. "Black guy, white girl, custody fight … It's a nightmare and what's f----d up is I didn't even know until yesterday how big a deal this was. Can you say lawyer?"

Two days later, Raleigh police arrested the Hayeses at his mother's home in Kinston, where police officer Kevin Crocker had been staking out the couple in anticipation of their arrests.

"(Grant Hayes) was smoking a lot of cigarettes, back to back," Crocker testified Monday. "He appeared to be very nervous. His parents kept coming out. It appeared that people were trying to console him and talk to him at that point in time."

Inside the home, authorities found a number of items, including a signed note in which the Hayeses relinquished custody of his sons and their 1-month-old daughter, to Grant Hayes' mother.

Raleigh police detective Thomas Ouellette testified that he also found scrawled on an old envelope notes that appeared to be from someone preparing to give a press conference.

"That's what my initial assessment of it was," he said.

In the days that followed, police conducted a more thorough search of the Hayeses' apartment, and even dismantling pipes in a hallway bathroom that Sgt. Brian Hall described as "remarkably clean and practically sterile" and absent of a shower lining, shower rod, floor mats and other items.

Investigators going through the trash from the apartment complex found on July 29 the floor mats, shower lining, as well as cleaning supplies and other items from Hayeses' home.

Among the items that had been trashed were several bags that had each contained 10 pounds of ice, face masks, yellow rubber gloves, protective goggles, a pair of women's pants, men's underwear, a red bleach-stained towel and a yellow discarded vacuum cleaner described by Amanda Hayes' adult daughter as belonging to the Hayeses.

Sha Guddat testified early in the trial that her mother called her on July 14 asking if she could borrow Guddat's vacuum because hers had broken.

Guddat also testified that the Hayeses' financial situation was "swirling down the drain."

Grant Hayes, she said, had sold a Rolex watch belonging to her mother as well as a diamond tennis bracelet and other items.

"Anything my mother had, at that point, had been pawned," Guddat said.

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  • caffeine337 Sep 10, 2013

    I knew Laura & Grant, used to play guitar with him at Cinellis. Laura was not the brightest coin in thebox but she wasn't a bad person. Grant was always pretty smug. It's sometimes easy to tell when you meet someone who has negative intentions for other people. Grant was one of those people I just had a very bad feeling about. RIP Laura.

  • SurvivorOne Sep 10, 2013

    This nut case is a killer. Just put him down ASAP the same way he did his Ex. Only difference is keep him alive while he is being dismembered so he can feel the pain!

  • monami Sep 10, 2013

    He had temporary primary custody as they went through the formal legal custody process. She had the children weekends. He lied and slandered her in the preliminary temporary custody hearings. Plus she had no job, no residence of her own (lived with his parents - long story), and he had an apartment with a (now known to be psycho) wife and appeared to the court to have the more stable home (ha!). That was an erroneous and tragic assumption.

  • mrschizzy Sep 10, 2013

    Maybe I missed it somewhere down the line, but I am curious as to why Laura didn't have primary custody of her kids to begin with. Not that a father shouldn't have it (because my husband does), but seems like he fought for that and the court must have had good reason for it. Wonder what it was all about?

  • Paladin2 Sep 10, 2013

    Mungo: "I'm sorry, Hayes isn't as dangerous to society than the trial lawyers and judge..." The Hayes couple couldn't buy custody of the children so they murdered and dismembered the mother of the children and dumped her in Texas after using acid on her. They are completely void of a conscience. You sound like the mother of this monster or some naive groupie.

  • UreapwhatUsow Sep 10, 2013

    @deyday, He probably knows his second wife is crazy too, that's why he left the room, part of the plan.
    My guess is second degree for him, since all the purchases of the clean-up were bought after the fact, my guess for her is the same, new baby = postpartum depression, anything can happen is what a Dr. will tell you, those two are CLEVER, hope the juries don't fall for it. It's a shame, but I don't see them paying with a long jail sentence, our court system is just too fickle!

  • NC Native11 Sep 10, 2013

    Both this man and his wife look evil. As others have mentioned he does have a smirk on his face. I hope both of them burn in hell for what they did to this poor woman. I'm sick of vicious people killing others and trying to get away with it while wasting our tax dollars on these trials.

  • nic Sep 10, 2013

    I do believe what he and his wife did to Laura was the worst thing you can do. I am going through a custody battle just for weekend visitation for my fiance. It has been a year and a half since he first filed and still has not seen his child and has cost now over $10,000. He has no criminal record, pays his child support and has weekend visitation with his oldest son. I can understand why people get so frustrated and do crazy things. I don't condon it in anyway but I can understand it.

  • sunshine1040 Sep 10, 2013

    He made two children with this woman before he learned who or what she was. I do not believe him. He should have taken the time to get to know her before making any children but when you play house you get to pay for the house and he thought he was taking the easy way out

  • anti-Hans Sep 10, 2013

    Really Mungo? The attorney's are to blame? Did the attorney's cut her body up, drive the parts 1/2 way across the country, and dump in the creek? Did the attorney's help him clean up after?

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