Raleigh, N.C. — The father of a slain Kinston woman said Tuesday that his daughter expressed concern to him nearly three years ago about the relationship she had with the Raleigh man charged in her death.
But Rodger Ackerson said that he never imagined that 27-year-old Laura Ackerson would disappear or that her remains would be found more than a week later halfway across the country.
"She told me several times in 2008, when she was up spending Christmas with me – she said she had to go back (to North Carolina), because if she didn't, Grant would send his thugs around to get her," Rodger Ackerson said. "At that time, she's 24 years old, and she has her own free will."
Laura Ackerson's former boyfriend and the father of her two children, Grant Hayes, is charged with first-degree murder in her death. His wife, Amanda Hayes, faces the same charge.
Investigators have alleged that the pair killed Laura Ackerson in North Carolina, dismembered her body and carried it in coolers to Richmond, Texas, about 60 miles south of Houston, where her remains were tossed in a creek.
She was last seen on July 13, and her car was found a week later in the parking lot of a Raleigh apartment complex about a quarter-mile from the Hayeses' home.
Raleigh police investigators haven't offered a motive for the slaying, but family members have said that Grant Hayes and Laura Ackerson had a "volatile" relationship and had been involved in a custody dispute.
"I think Mr. Hayes was faced with a custody suit that he was going to lose and decided he wasn't going to lose," Rodger Ackerson said.
Rodger Ackerson, who lives in Michigan, has filed for custody of his grandchildren, who are currently staying with Grant Hayes' mother, Patsy Hayes.
Unsubstantiated allegations 28 years ago by his ex-wife that he molested three of his children, he said, could mean an uphill custody battle. He has denied the claims and said he plans to ask that she retract her statements.
He has been allowed to see his grandchildren, he said, and he worries, in regard to his daughter's death, about what they might have seen.
Rodger Ackerson said that he just hopes now that the justice system will prevail.
"They just can't cut her up in pieces and throw her away and not pay for it," he said.
He and his daughter, the youngest of four children, spoke on the phone at least three times a week, he said. They had a close relationship when she was growing up, and one of Roger Ackerson's fondest memories is watching butterflies with his daughter after it rained.
"It's not quite real yet," Rodger Ackerson said of his loss.