Local News

Couple faces murder charges in woman's disappearance

Posted July 25, 2011

— Texas investigators believe a 27-year-old Kinston woman missing for more than a week was killed and dismembered in North Carolina and transported in ice chests in a U-Haul trailer to a site 60 miles south of Houston, where her remains were scattered in a creek.

Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Craig Brady said in a news conference Monday that search crews had recovered 60 percent of the body, believed to be that of Laura Jean Ackerson, a businesswoman and mother of two who was last seen July 13.

She was reported missing two days later, after she never showed up in Raleigh to pick up her sons from their father, Grant Ruffin Hayes. Her car was found in a parking lot at a north Raleigh apartment complex on July 20.

Authorities are working to make a positive identification of the remains, Brady added, but all indications have led investigators to believe they are Ackerson's.

Hayes, 32, and his wife, Amanda Perry Hayes, 39, were arrested early Monday morning in Kinston and were charged with murder. They were in the Wake County jail without bond Monday evening.

The whereabouts of Ackerson's and Grant Hayes' children is unclear. Raleigh police, who are handling the investigation, would not comment. Brady said he thought they were with their father's family.

Raleigh police also have not commented on a possible motive, but family members and friends have said that Ackerson and Grant Hayes were involved in a custody battle and that their relationship had been "volatile."

Laura Ackerson Missing mom case leads detectives to Texas

Brady said it appeared to him as if the custody issue might have been a factor in the death.

"I don’t know if it was a planned homicide or if tempers flared, but I can’t imagine someone being that cold or just uncaring that, after the murder, they took the steps of dismembering this lady in the manner that they did and just tossing her in a creek," Brady said. "It’s one of the most gruesome scenes that I’ve seen in 30-something years of law enforcement."

Brady said that Raleigh police contacted his office Sunday afternoon, seeking assistance in Ackerson's disappearance.

That led search crews to Oyster Creek, a few yards from where Grant and Amanda Hayes had visited with her sister in Richmond, Texas, Brady said.

The two arrived there last Monday with a trailer, he said, and it appears that someone used a boat to dump the body parts in the creek, Brady said.

"I can't imagine someone being that cold and uncaring that, after the murder, they took the steps of dismembering this lady in the manner that they did and just tossed her in the creek," Brady said.

A dive team searched the creek for additional remains Monday and planned to search again on Tuesday.

Investigators took a machete from the house, Brady said, but it was unclear whether it is related to the case. He said it appeared that someone might have used a saw to cut the body, but he did not elaborate further.

Detectives also seized several ice chests, Brady said, some of which had been cleaned by Amanda Hayes' family. Brady said that there is no indication that they knew anything about Ackerson and that it was unlikely any family members would face charges.

Meanwhile Monday, police staked out the Hayes' home at Woodfield Glen Apartments in Raleigh, about a quarter-mile from where Ackerson's white 2006 Ford Focus was found last week at Camden Crest Apartments.

A neighbor told WRAL News that police showed up at the Woodfield Glen complex last Wednesday evening and told her they wanted to speak to someone about a missing persons case. Officers were there again Thursday and Monday, the neighbor said.

Family members of Ackerson and the Hayes had no comment about Sunday's developments.

Friends were shocked by the news.

"I’m devastated. My heart is broken," Ackerson's friend, Jo Jackson, said. "Laura is not in a creek somewhere. Laura is in heaven."

Friends honor murdered Kinston woman at church vigil Friends honor slain Kinston woman at church vigil

Jackson helped organize prayer vigils at Ackerson's church on Monday and last week and was also a business mentor to her. Ackerson's marketing business was doing well, and she had recently picked up three new clients, Jackson said.

She said her friend, who she met about a year ago at church, had a bright spirit and strong faith.

"I saw her as being very humble. She came hungry for the help that only God can give and (was) just a very gracious person," Jackson said.

Local guitarist Tommy Evans said he's known Grant Hayes for eight years from their performances on the Triangle's music scene.

Grant Hayes, who also goes by the stage name, Grant Haze, is a brilliant artist, Evans said, and he is also shocked to hear of the arrests.

Who is Grant Hayes Who is Grant Hayes?

"He's very giving, laid back, a mellow guy all the way around," Evans said. "He's very, very creative and talented. I haven't played with many people who are better."

According to video clips posted on Grant Hayes' music website, Amanda Hayes is also an entertainer, having been an actress in movies and TV shows.

The two married last year.

"I married my soul mate, my best friend, and she is something that I wanted my whole life, and she's beautiful," Grant Hayes said in one clip.

In another, he also talked about the two boys he had with Ackerson, explaining how he named his children after himself.

His first son was named Grant Jr., and his second son Gentle because of his own gentle nature, Grant Hayes said.

446 Comments

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  • newangelique10 Jul 28, 1:12 p.m.

    Imet this couple over a year ago Grant was happy, talkative, and serene. Amanda was quiet and seemed a nice but withdrawn. We always saw them and even helped Grant with lugging furniture to the third story apartment. He also seemed excited when, during the end of my pregnancy, that Amanda was pregnant as well. I know nothing else as I did not pursue a relationship with her due to her seeming withdrawn and a bit stressed over caring for the two small children he had. Grant had mentioned that there was a very serious custody battle that had been ongoing and that Laura had been very hard to deal with. I have to say I am shocked. I do not understand the brutality involved. Now it seems a newborn baby will not be with her parents and the right to have a mother and father has been taken away from Grant's children as well. I wish them no ill will. But I hope they are served with the justice that they deserve for taking the life of another human being. I am agnostic butI will keep all of these

  • Gg1979 Jul 28, 11:27 a.m.

    Abuse-Alienate you from family, friends, etc, Annihilate-destroy this is what abusers do. But there are a couple of things I've thought about. If he did this to the mother of his children she helped him what happens when he is finished or tired of you? If she did it and they had gotten away with it those babies would have been living with her and would have ended up like the Anthony baby. She is not special he loves no one not even himself she loves no one either! People say they are not monsters they are worse! The one thing I hate is they didn't kill her in TX they wouldn't be sitting twenty years before they ride the needle!

  • brittnic83 Jul 28, 10:11 a.m.

    Im also a single 27 yr old mother of 2 children (2&4). This makes me so sick! Over a custody battle!! Do they realize now the 2 kids will have neither parent present in their lives!! I cant even imagine! Makes me so angry!!!

  • janasullivan Jul 26, 4:40 p.m.

    Bring em back to Texas! We have and are not afraid to use the death penalty.

  • mortonlipschitz Jul 26, 4:23 p.m.

    (paragraph 9) "I can't imagine someone being that cold and uncaring that, after the murder, they took the steps of dismembering this lady in the manner that they did and just tossed her in the creek," Brady said.

    (paragraph 13) "...but I can’t imagine someone being that cold or just uncaring that, after the murder, they took the steps of dismembering this lady in the manner that they did and just tossing her in a creek," Brady said.

    Deputy Brady....you can say that again!

  • MadHillbilly Jul 26, 3:17 p.m.

    Can you say death penalty...

  • buford Jul 26, 2:28 p.m.

    He's 5'5", 150lbs...tiny little fella...

  • happyone Jul 26, 2:23 p.m.

    The wife looks like the ring leader to me! He is clearly not a smart "man".... No telling what her past holds! Poor children!

  • mochabrown Jul 26, 1:20 p.m.

    I betcha the sister suspected something wrong and notified authorities; if so, good for her.

    They were too deranged in the head to even think about the kids involved. Now all three kids are without their parents. His wife just had a baby in June; what was in her koolaid..being a mother herself...

  • JAT Jul 26, 1:02 p.m.

    Rebelyell - most likely, the mother's family didn't even know these kids. Reports had said that the relationship with Hayes had pushed them away. The 6-week-old baby of the wife, though, should have gone to someone in her family but maybe it's a matter of them coming here from Texas.

    Reports have said they were married in April 2010, and that Ackerson's youngest son is 1. That allows for VERY little time that he wasn't seeing both women or just broke up with Ackerson. What did they see in this man?

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