Raleigh, N.C. — Opening statements could start as early as Thursday in the trial of a Raleigh man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend two years ago, chopping up her body and disposing of her remains in a Texas creek.
Defense attorneys and Wake County prosecutors had chosen 12 jurors and one alternate juror Wednesday afternoon in the case against Grant Ruffin Hayes who – along with his wife, Amanda Perry Hayes – is charged with first-degree murder in the July 2011 death of Laura Jean Ackerson.
Two alternate jurors still need to be seated.
When opening statements begin in the Grant Hayes trial, WRAL.com will carry them live.
"This is your top priority, your major priority for the next few weeks," Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens told jurors Wednesday morning, as he reminded them to stay away from news accounts and to refrain from talking about the case.
Ackerson, 27, was last seen alive on July 13, 2011, and was reported missing five days later by a colleague.
On July 24, 2011, her remains were discovered in a creek about 100 yards from the home of Amanda Hayes' sister in Richmond, Texas – about 60 miles south of Houston.
Prosecutors say the couple killed Ackerson, although how she died has not been determined, and carried her remains in several coolers in a U-Haul trailer from their northwest Raleigh apartment to Texas and later returned.
They were arrested July 25, 2011, at a home in Kinston.
Authorities have not publicly spoken of a motive, but relatives of Ackerson have said that she and Grant Hayes, 34, had a "controlling and volatile relationship" and were in a child custody battle over their two sons – ages 3 and 2 at the time – who were in their father's care.
Grant Hayes and Amanda Hayes, 41, married in 2010 and had a daughter born in the months prior to Ackerson's death.
Michael Medus, a longtime friend and former roommate of Grant Hayes, said Monday that he was shocked when he heard of the accusations, which are out of character for the man he knows.
"In 10 years of knowing Grant, I never heard him raise his voice, never heard him yell, never heard him upset," he said.
Medus added that Grant Hayes appears optimistic about the outcome of his trial.
"He's always smiling. He seems very confident, and it seems that he's ready to get this chapter of being incarcerated out of the way and move forward with his life," Medus said.