Raleigh, N.C. — A psychologist who performed a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation on both Laura Ackerson and Grant Hayes as part of an ongoing child custody dispute testified Wednesday in Hayes' murder trial that, despite allegations that Ackerson was mentally unstable, she made no such findings but did suggest that he be further evaluated.
"It's recommended that Grant be referred to a psychiatrist for evaluation regarding the question of a mood disorder or other possible explanations for the illogical, disturbed thinking that he exhibits," Ginger Calloway read from her May 16, 2011, analysis in which she also recommended Hayes and Ackerson split custody of their 2- and 3-year-old sons.
Ackerson, 27, and Hayes were set to go to court on Aug. 15, 2011, her attorney has testified, and she was optimistic that she might get full custody of the children.
But a month prior to that hearing, her dismembered body was found in a Texas creek.
Wake County prosecutors contend that Hayes, 34, planned his ex-girlfriend's death and killed her in his northwest Raleigh apartment and that the battle over their boys was the motive.
Witnesses have testified that the custody fight was straining Hayes' finances and that a custody arrangement could impose restrictions on his ability to leave North Carolina with his children. Hayes was a musician who often traveled for his job.
Calloway testified that Hayes' wife told her in an interview that he wanted his children to be "citizens of the world."
"It is obvious they do not want Laura included in the children's lives," Calloway said, quoting her psychological report. "This is very concerning, because, in essence, they want to obliterate her. It is concerning because the children are obviously attached to Laura."
As for Ackerson, Calloway characterized her as having little support from her family and said that she "may have been intimidated" and "systematically isolated by some of Hayes' actions." Her analysis found that Ackerson was "insecure and unsure" of herself as a parent and that she should, among other things, find a group of single mothers with whom she could network and find support.
Defense attorneys have said that it was Hayes' wife, Amanda Hayes, who killed Ackerson during an argument and that their client only helped to cover up the crime because he feared no one would believe it was unplanned.
Amanda Hayes, the defense has said, was "extremely resentful" of Ackerson and was also upset that her husband agreed in a handwritten note to pay $25,000 for Ackerson to give up the custody fight.
"Something happened" between the two women when he left the room, attorneys have said.
Ackerson's family law attorney, John Sargeant, said Thursday that he was not aware of any animosity between his client and Amanda Hayes and that Ackerson never expressed any concerns about her.
Ackerson, however, was worried about her safety, Sargeant said, and feared that Grant Hayes "was starting to get desperate."
They talked about Ackerson not being alone with him, but Sargeant said they never pursued any kind of protective order against him.
Ackerson never talked about giving up custody of her sons, he added, and he did not believe she would have done so for money.
"That was never discussed. In fact, she had invested everything in this case," Sargeant said. "It was her No. 1 priority to get the children back, and she was willing to spend or do what she had to do to do that."