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Texas remains identified as missing Kinston woman

Posted July 26, 2011

Laura Jean Ackerson
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— A Raleigh couple was ordered held without bond Tuesday in the death of a Kinston woman whose remains were found in a south Texas creek.

District Judge Jacqueline Brewer appointed public defenders for Grant Ruffin Hayes, 32, and Amanda Perry Hayes, 39, and set their next court date on Aug. 16.

Laura Jean Ackerson, 27, a businesswoman and mother of two, was last seen July 13, and her business partner, Chevon Mathes, reported her missing five days later.

A dive team for the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office in Richmond, Texas, found remains late Sunday scattered in Oyster Creek, about 60 miles south of Houston. Divers and cadaver dogs wrapped up the search Tuesday after three days in the sweltering heat.

chevon mathes Business partner talks about Ackerson

"The objects, we believe, were floating, and that came up into the lily pads, (which) made it difficult," said Mark Thorsen, a member of the Houston Police Department's dive team. "It was a football field of lily pads and weeds and stuff like that that we had to go through to try to search."

Investigators on Tuesday positively identified the remains as those of Ackerson. They said they believe she was slain in North Carolina before her killers hauled her dismembered body in coolers to Texas for disposal.

Amanda Hayes' sister lives about 100 yards from a wooded area that includes Oyster Creek, and Texas authorities said that Grant and Amanda Hayes arrived in Richmond last Monday.

Investigators took a machete from the house, but Chief Deputy Craig Brady of the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office said he doubted that it was connected to the case.

"It's obvious from the remains that something other than a machete was also used, if the machete was used at all," Brady said.

Detectives also seized 124- and 75-quart ice chests from the house, and Brady said it appears Grant Hayes purchased five coolers in North Carolina in the days after Ackerson was reported missing.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said it wasn't unusual that first-degree murder charges were filed even before investigators knew they had found Ackerson's body.

Ackerson diver has NC connection Ackerson diver has NC connection

"We have sufficient information that we felt was probable cause that a murder had been committed and these two people had done it," Willoughby said. "Any type of evidence that was seized in Texas would be able to be transported here and reviewed and analyzed if it provided any information."

Ackerson's car was found at a north Raleigh apartment complex on July 20. The complex is less than a quarter-mile from the Woodfield Glen Apartments complex where the Hayeses live.

Raleigh police have not commented on a possible motive for Ackerson's death, but family members and friends have said that Ackerson and Grant Hayes were involved in a custody battle over their two young sons and that their relationship had been "volatile."

Mathes said Ackerson talked to her about fighting for custody of the children.

"She was having a pretty tough time. She was still very positive on getting the children back full custody," Mathes said.

Mathes said she sent Ackerson an e-mail before she reported her missing.

"I said, 'If I don't hear back from you, I am going to the police in the morning.' And I still didn't hear anything back," Mathes said.

Ackerson swapped emails with former boyfriend James Harrison in the days before her disappearance, acknowledging that she had been in court with Grant Hayes for the past year. She told Harrison that the couple lived in the Virgin Islands for about a year before returning to North Carolina two years ago and expressed optimism about rebuilding her life as a business owner and a single mother.

"I've heard that your twenties are the hardest compared to the rest of adulthood, and I can definitely say mine have been rough but good," Ackerson wrote in a July 11 email to Harrison.

Police said Ackerson's two sons were with family members, but they didn't disclose whether it was Ackerson's family or Grant Hayes' family.

197 Comments

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  • familyfour Jul 28, 2011

    Innocent until proven guilty has to me, become a reserve for those who are truly in a questionable situation.

    I suppose we are to believe his innocence until a judge and jury "say so"?

    Anthony trial setting good with you?

    How bout the pictures of little Shaniya being carried in her pajama's into an elevator with her rapist and murderer? Think he's innocent, too?

    You make me sick....as does everyone who thinks like you do. It is because of people like you that our criminal society has MORE RIGHTS than our innocent and victims.

    I don't think our children have any rights at all. It is becoming ever more apparent that our gov't and society has decided that there is little value in the life of a child. I hope they wake up soon...our children are our nation's future.

  • familyfour Jul 28, 2011

    "They did nothing jcd241959"

    Blarg rant scold tell off, she deserved it fo crossin a man - PBSM

    "She deserved it for crossing a man."...REALLY?

    Poor blind stupid woman.....do you feel you deserve mutilation "fo crossing a man"? My suggestion would be for you to MOVE to where these things are believed, and take your possee with you.

    This is the United States of America...where PEOPLE have rights....even the right to cross a man, especially when he is messing with her kids!!! (and vise versa)

    She obviously saw in him what no one else did, as she fought for her children's safety!!!!

    If the death penalty is not sought in this case and delivered, I will have NO faith at all left in NC's ability to tell good from bad.

  • msncdso Jul 27, 2011

    What was wrong with my comment?

  • golorealist Jul 27, 2011

    "Pleasssse.....let's NOT jump to conclusions here" -dollibug

    i'm going to go out on a limb here and jump to a conclusion. in my mind, he did it. give the guy a fair trial, but the evidence in this case is pretty solid. somebody would have had to go to extreme lengths to frame them if they didn't do this.

    let's look at the evidence here...the last time she was seen was when she dropped the kids off at his house, her car was foudn close by, he purchased several large coolers, rented a uhaul, drove to texas with the coolers (some of them are in texas, so it's obvious he took them there) and uhaul, stayed for 1 night, a witness saw them dumping the body parts, those body parts have been identified as laura, he made comments to friends about wanting her dead, and there's likely to be much more evidence.

    i am all about justice and innocent until proven guilty. in my mind, they have already been proven guilty.

  • Scubagirl Jul 27, 2011

    ++++ YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS!!! If this man chopped up their mother he should NEVER see his kids again! period, end of story. No one that can do that deserves anything but a swift trip to their own grave! scubagirl

    Pleasssse.....let's NOT jump to conclusions here--dollibug

    um, excuse me but I said IF. How can I make what I said any clearer for you-I did NOT jump to any conclusions. Please read and comprehend entire posts before taking something out of context and putting your own spin on it.

  • BrightLight Jul 27, 2011

    Having followed this story, and others like it, all I can do is shake my head in disbelief. There is no measure of logic or even sanity that can reasonably probe the depths of this insanity. Yet, the very word "insanity" seems too easy. But when you ponder the macabre way in which it played out, its course cannot be explained by just human "bad behavior". What caused it to end up the way it did? The word "evil" just keeps coming to my mind. Yeah, I know, that word is also easy to apply. However, it just seems that "evil" appropriately applies a greater measure of justifiable revulsion and a broader concept of responsibility at the perpetrator(s) than the narrower concept of "insanity", which eliminates responsibility altogether.

  • storchheim Jul 27, 2011

    And afternoondlite: Yes, sadly, in some cultures that the censors won't let us name, there are men who are taught they're nothing without blood on their hands. I get your point though.

  • storchheim Jul 27, 2011

    afternoondliter (love that song, it was so daring at the time!):

    The character limit on these posts gets in the way sometime. I did NOT mean to imply that these poor women brought in on themselves in any way. They were not responsible for their own murders; the murderers were. Thanks for bringing this up.

    To say a little more: I think too many women will put up with things that fall far short of murder, but they're so conditioned to believe that "getting them a man" is their primary goal. Speaking for myself, I was even taught it was OK to backstab a friend if she was "competition", and surely all right to cancel plans with her if a boy asked me out. Some posters here are speculating that the scumbag wife was the driving force behind this murder. Wouldn't be surprised.

  • MikeTysonsPunchOut Jul 27, 2011

    storchheim- by the way, I do agree with a lot of what you say. And I do think that there is an ELEMENT of our society that has crept in, that teaches a misplaced sense of male/female relationship and interaction. I just don't know for sure if that is what contributes to this type of crime, and more specifically, THESE crimes.

    I also laughed at the comment about 'the whole family being here' as I thought the same thing about PBSM and jcd194256 comments. My guess is that they are smoking the same thing Grant & Amanda Hayes smoked before their mugshots.

  • MikeTysonsPunchOut Jul 27, 2011

    "I bet on this common factor: they were all taught that they were nothing without a man."

    That's a rather broad generalization and a bet you may very well lose. We'll never know why these things happen, and to say that it's because we teach them they are nothing without a man is to risk placing the blame on the victims & their families, rather than on the criminals.

    Would you say that murderers were taught that they were nothing without blood on their hands? Or that they were taught to take whatever they want, even if it means killing someone else to get it? No.

    I say these girls are victims of the evil criminals FIRST...SOMETIMES the long term consequence of their own choices, and sometimes circumstance. They're not victims of society, or their upbringing.

    I know plenty of people who date/marry just for companionship. Were they taught that? Often times, the answer is no. Companionship is a basic human desire...sometimes it can be misplaced, and/or taken advantage of.

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