Raleigh, N.C. — A Wake County Superior Court judge on Friday granted the state’s request to try a Raleigh married couple together in the 2011 murder of the husband’s ex-girlfriend.
Grant Ruffin Hayes, 33, and Amanda Perry Hayes, 40, are both charged with first-degree murder in the death of Laura Jean Ackerson, who was the mother of Grant’s two children.
The Kinston woman’s remains were found July 24, 2011, in a creek in Richmond, Texas – about 60 miles south of Houston – where Amanda Hayes' sister lives.
The couple appeared before Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens for a 10 a.m. hearing and sat at the same table together with their separate attorneys.
Neither attorney objected to the state’s request to try their clients together, citing efficiency and cost savings to taxpayers. However, they said they would ask the court to sever the joined case if any problems should arise.
"At this point, I think the state’s position is appropriate,” he said. “Frankly, I think that the interest of justice would be best served if both persons charged with the same offense be charged at the same time by the same jury.”
The trial is set for May 20.
In a hearing before Stephens last month, Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger characterized the case as one of domestic violence. Family members, however, have said Grant Hayes and Ackerson, 27, had been involved in a contentious child custody battle.
Zellinger told Stephens that there was a "tremendous amount" of evidence against Grant Hayes and that Amanda Hayes confided in her sister in Texas that she helped kill Ackerson and was covering for him.
How Ackerson died is unclear. Medical examiners found injuries that suggested a sharp force injury to her neck, but there were also signs that someone tried to strangle her.
Texas authorities who found Ackerson's body and later turned the case over to Raleigh police, say they believe the Hayeses killed Ackerson, cut up her body and carried it in coolers to Texas, where they disposed of her remains in the creek.