Graphic testimony dominates Hayes murder trial for third day
Posted September 6, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Jurors in the trial of a Raleigh man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend two years ago and dumping her dismembered body in a Texas creek saw more graphic photos Friday of her decomposed remains as Wake County prosecutors continued laying out their case against him.
Grant Ruffin Hayes, 34, faces life in prison if he's found guilty of first-degree murder in the July 2011 death of Laura Jean Ackerson, 27, who was also the mother of his young sons.
The state contends the two were in a bitter custody battle and that Hayes and his wife planned and carried out her murder in their northwest Raleigh apartment after inviting Ackerson to their home.
With the body parts in coolers, prosecutors say, the couple then drove approximately 1,200 miles with the children – including the Hayeses' 1-month-old daughter – to Richmond, Texas, where they disposed of them in Oyster Creek near the home of relatives.
Divers with the Houston Police Department's Dive Team eventually recovered several remains, including Ackerson's head.
Friday marked the sixth day of testimony in the trial and the third day of graphic testimony about the condition of Ackerson’s body when it was recovered.
Dr. Nobby Mambo, deputy chief medical examiner of the Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office in Galveston, Texas, who performed an initial autopsy on the remains, testified that he could not determine a cause of death but classified it as "undetermined homicidal violence."
While prosecutors haven't publicly stated their case, witness testimony so far in the trial has suggested that the Hayeses tried using acid to destroy Ackerson's remains.
Dr. Paul Stimson, a forensic dentist, testified Friday he found acid etching on one of Ackerson's teeth, which could have been consistent with a cleaning agent known as muriatic acid.
But Stimson said he couldn't be exactly sure what type or how much acid had come in contact with the tooth or for how long – all factors in the severity of the demineralization of the tooth's enamel.
An anthropologist was consulted to make that determination, witnesses have said, but her findings have not been presented in court. She could testify next week.
Jurors on Friday also got a glimpse into Hayes' and Ackerson's relationship as a Raleigh police detective shared text messages from two of Hayes' cellphones about child custody matters.
Hayes had custody of his sons – ages 2 and 3 in 2011 – and Ackerson usually saw them on weekends when she picked them up from a gas station halfway between Raleigh and her home in Kinston.
Witnesses have testified that it was unusual for her to make a mid-week visit to see the children and that she would never have gone to Hayes' apartment to see them.
Defense attorneys say it was Hayes' wife, Amanda Hayes, who was responsible for Ackerson's death during a fight between the two while he was in another room.
The defense also contends that Grant Hayes made a mistake by helping dispose of Ackerson's remains but that he did so because he didn't think anyone would believe her death was unplanned.
Amanda Hayes is also charged with first-degree murder in the crime and is expected to go to trial in January.