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Testimony: Exact cause of Ackerson's violent death uncertain

Posted February 6, 2014

During the first-degree murder trial of Amanda Hayes on Feb. 5, 2014, North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Deborah Radisch illustrates for jurors using a medical skeleteon the injuries to Laura Ackerson's body. (Chad Flowers/WRAL)

— Laura Ackerson's dismembered remains were in such bad condition that North Carolina's chief medical examiner was unable to determine just how the 27-year-old Kinston mother of two died when authorities say she was killed inside the Raleigh apartment of her ex-boyfriend more than three years ago.

Kandice Rowland Amanda Hayes murder trial testimony (Day 7)

"My opinion as to the cause of death in this case was undetermined homicidal violence," Dr. Deborah Radisch testified Wednesday in the trial of Amanda Smith Hayes, 41, who is accused of first-degree murder and accessory after the fact to murder in the July 13, 2011, death.

But Radisch did note during the autopsy examination that Ackerson had a sharp puncture wound to the fourth cervical vertebra of the spine as well as crushed thyroid cartilage that she said was consistent with some type of asphyxia or blunt force trauma to the neck.

"In my opinion, this was a death due to external means, and that the external means were intentionally inflicted, but I cannot tell you for sure what the cause of death was," she told jurors.

What Wake County prosecutors say they do know is that Hayes and her husband, Grant Hayes, murdered Ackerson, cut up her body to get it out of their third-floor apartment and dumped it six days later in a Texas creek across the street from Amanda Hayes' sister's home.

The sister, Karen Berry, who led Raleigh police to the creek when they showed up knocking on her door, testified Wednesday that Amanda Hayes also admitted to killing Ackerson during an argument.

But defense attorneys say their client had no knowledge of Ackerson's death and that she confessed when she did find out about it – still thinking it was accidental – only because Grant Hayes had threatened to kill her.

Grant Hayes, 34, was convicted of the crime in September and is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Raleigh Police Sgt. Robert Latour testified Wednesday that Berry recalled the conversation with her sister during three interviews spanning approximately seven hours – at first crying so hard he could barely understand her.

By the third interview, however, "she became progressively clearer. She became more detailed. She became more consistent," he said. "She had to get it off her chest and tell the truth. It looked like it had weighed on her."



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  • lkropp Feb 10, 2014

    Is there any way to give the judge a tissue?

  • TheoryGirl Feb 6, 2014

    Her defense is that she didn't know until Texas - How could she have not noticed those bleach stains on the carpet?

  • rougemontredneck Feb 6, 2014

    For you own sister to testify against you, just says how horrible of a person you really are. The only good thing to come out of this whole mess is that the kids don't have to live with either of the Hayes' anymore. Amanda should own up and take her 'licks' so to speak. Maybe begging for forgiveness will help her live with what they both did together. Denying it and making excuses just makes it more of a farce.

  • Obamacare rises again Feb 6, 2014

    Good, they're showing the video of Amanda dumping the acid. That should pretty much do it for her. Enjoy life in prison.

  • tigresspen Feb 6, 2014

    Tiblet: I so agree. Involving Karen Berry is so self serving. I can't believe anyone who truly loves their sister could do something so horrible... All she had to do was say no, do what you may but I am not transporting that body to Karen's home... Good Grief, there was so many places they could have dumped that body before reaching the Berry home... Grant was determined to lay it all on Amanda... she kocked Laura down, causing her death and it was her sister she insisted on going to see... Yes. Amanda is just as responsible in my mind but Grant was the mastermind...

  • tigresspen Feb 6, 2014

    blunt force trauma, attempted strangulation, stab wound... doesn't matter which caused her death. Fact is she did die and was horribly mutilated.

  • tcook Feb 6, 2014

    Are they not showing the trial today?

  • tiblet Feb 6, 2014

    she should never have involved her sister in this...this woman is truly heartless. While we may not know exactly how she died...the brutality with which they treated her body is going to weigh on this jury.

  • Obamacare rises again Feb 6, 2014

    Um, how about blunt force trauma to the back of the head? Maybe Grant whacked her with his guitar.