Hayes felt trapped, wanted to leave husband, daughter says
Posted January 30, 2014
Updated January 31, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Weeks before the death of Laura Ackerson, the 24-year-old daughter of Amanda Hayes found her mother – eight months pregnant – sitting on the floor in the bathroom of her Raleigh apartment, bawling and talking about leaving her husband but also feeling trapped with nowhere else to turn.
"She said, 'I don't want to be a single mom at 40, and I'm scared, and there's no money,'" Sha Guddat testified Wednesday in her mother's first-degree murder trial. "'There's no way he could take care of our kids, and he doesn't need to have those boys, if I'm not here.'"
By then, defense attorneys say, Grant Hayes had spent all of the money Amanda Hayes had inherited from her late husband, maxed out her credit cards and sold thousands of dollars' worth of her jewelry so he could travel and work on his music career.
Meanwhile, Amanda Hayes was left home alone to take care of the 2- and 3-year-old sons he shared with Ackerson.
Guddat testified that the couple was not only broke with a new baby on the way, but were weeks away from being evicted when Ackerson died on July 13, 2011.
Amanda Hayes, Guddat acknowledged when questioned by defense attorney Johnny Gaskins, had nothing else left to give Grant Hayes, whom she described as being charming and witty but also manipulative, deceptive and controlling.
It was the latter of those qualities, Gaskin says, which contributed to his client's involvement after Ackerson's was killed.
Grant Hayes, the defense says, hid the death and dismemberment from his wife, and then, when he needed help disposing of the remains, threatened to kill Amanda Hayes, the boys and their 1-month-old daughter.
Prosecutors, however, say the defendant not only knew about the crime but confessed to her sister that she killed her.
The Hayeses had been involved in a bitter custody dispute with Ackerson, the state contends, and as a result, Amanda Hayes had become angry at and resentful of the 27-year-old.
The couple killed Ackerson at their apartment and, four days later, drove with the children – and Ackerson's remains packed in coolers – to Richmond, Texas, where they dumped the body in a creek across the street from Amanda Hayes' sister's home.
Grant Hayes and his wife were arrested July 25, 2011. He was tried and convicted last year and is serving life in prison for the crime.
Amanda Hayes, who is also charged with accessory after the fact to murder, also faces life in prison if found guilty of first-degree murder.
Testifying as a witness for the state, Guddat said she had been at Hayeses' apartment on July 14, 2011 – the day after the crime – to pick up the children while her mother and stepfather said they were cleaning and packing for their pending move to Kinston to live with Grant Hayes' parents.
It was five days later on July 19, 2011 – while the Hayeses were on their unexpected trip to Texas – that Guddat said she returned to the home and was greeted by a strong smell of bleach from a bleach-soaked towel on some carpet by the doorway.
"It was just really strange to me that the house smelled like bleach," Guddat said. "My mom doesn't use bleach to clean. It gives us a migraine."
The hallway bathroom, she testified, was also void of any accessories – such as a shower curtain, rug or toilet seat cover – but the guest bathroom was still being used.
The closets were also full, and toys were all over the apartment, Guddat said.
On a third visit to the apartment after the arrests, Guddat found an instruction manual for a saw that was mixed in with some papers on a counter and cellphones inside a drawer.
She turned over those items to police, as well the recording of a song, "Broomstick Rider," that she said Grant Hayes recorded in February 2010 about killing Ackerson.
At the time, Guddat said, she wasn't concerned about the song, because she knew he was involved in the custody dispute.
"Were you so terrified that you told your mom to get away from him?" Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger asked.
"No, because I genuinely thought it was his way of blowing off steam," Guddat said.