Hayes lured Ackerson, 'planned out' her death, jail inmate testifies
Posted September 11, 2013
Updated September 12, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh man on trial for killing his ex-girlfriend more than two years ago allegedly told a fellow inmate at the Wake County Detention Center shortly after the crime that he lured her to his apartment and that he and his wife strangled her because he was tired of the yearlong custody battle over the two young sons they shared.
"He already had it planned out what he was going to do," Pablo Trinidad, now serving 21 years in federal prison on drug charges, told jurors late Wednesday afternoon in the first-degree murder trial of Grant Hayes.
Hayes, 34, along with his wife, Amanda Hayes, 41, was arrested July 25, 2011, 12 days after Laura Jean Ackerson, 27, disappeared.
Her last known whereabouts, police investigators have testified, was at the Hayeses' northwest Raleigh apartment, where she had gone for a mid-week visit with her 2- and 3-year-old boys who lived with their father.
Seven days after her disappearance, police found Ackerson's white 2006 Ford Focus in the parking lot of an apartment complex off Glenwood Avenue, less than a quarter mile from where the Hayeses lived.
Four days later, on July 24, 2011, authorities in Richmond, Texas – about 60 miles southwest of Houston – recovered pieces of Ackerson's body from a creek near the home of Amanda Hayes' sister.
"His words were, 'He just got rid of it,'" Trinidad said.
Grant Hayes and Ackerson had been embroiled in what prosecutors characterized as a "bitter" fight over the children after he filed for custody in June 2010, claiming she was an unfit mother.
But Ackerson was optimistic, witnesses have testified, that she would regain custody after she felt "vindicated" by a court-ordered psychologist's evaluation of her, Grant Hayes and their sons.
"(He) said his wife was a good woman and that he wished she was the mother of his kids instead of the victim," Trinidad said. "That's when he started talking to me more about the case then. It stemmed from that conversation."
Trinidad said Grant Hayes told him that he got Ackerson to come to his apartment "under false pretenses" by telling her he wanted to resolve the custody dispute.
"That's when him and his wife subdued her and strangled her," Trinidad said. "And later on after that, they dismembered the body."
The testimony is the first time in Grant Hayes' trial that prosecutors have offered solid evidence implicating him in the actual murder.
Witnesses have previously testified about his involvement in disposing of Ackerson's remains and the cover-up of the crime – something defense attorneys have already admitted.
On the day of her death, they claim, Ackerson went to the Hayeses' apartment and that, in a handwritten, signed note, she agreed to give up the custody fight in exchange for $25,000.
They say Amanda Hayes, angry and unsure of how they were going to pay her, killed Ackerson during an argument while Grant Hayes was in another room.
"This case is about a man covering up his wife's actions," attorney Will Durham said in opening statements, and that he only did it because he didn't think anyone would believe the attack was unplanned.
But Trinidad went on to testify Wednesday that Hayes, a musician, told him while in jail that he wanted to tell police that he was handicapped after spending many years playing an instrument and that he couldn't have been responsible for Ackerson's death.
"The reason he said that was his defense on how it was impossible for him to have committed the crime, because he couldn't grab anything by force, and her car was parked near his residence," Trinidad said. "He was saying that if he had done it, he wouldn't have left the car parked close to his residence."
Defense attorneys will get their chance to question Trinidad Thursday morning when the trial resumes at 9 a.m.
Amanda Hayes is expected to go to trial in January.