Wake prosecutors refute Amanda Hayes' testimony
Posted February 14
Updated February 16
Raleigh, N.C. — Was Amanda Hayes involved in the death of Laura Ackerson, and did she willingly help her husband get rid of the 27-year-old's dismembered body nearly three years ago?
Seeking to win a conviction in Amanda Hayes' first-degree murder trial, Wake County prosecutors called two final witnesses Friday to refute Hayes' own testimony that she had no idea that Ackerson had died and only helped in the cover-up because she was scared of Grant Hayes.
But jurors heard evidence to the contrary Friday after the defense rested its case – having called only three witnesses, including their client.
Closing arguments are set for Monday morning.
"She loved Grant very much. She said she loved him and she missed him," said Patricia Barakat, a former inmate at the Wake County Detention Center who got to know Amanda Hayes for nearly three months in 2012.
"They hated her," Barakat added, referring to Ackerson. "They thought that Laura was a liar. (Amanda) had told me that Laura didn't care for the kids, that she was only trying to use the kids to extort the money from Grant."
The state says Grant Hayes was in a child custody fight with Ackerson over their two young sons and that she died after going to the Hayeses' Raleigh apartment on July 13, 2011.
Defense attorneys admit that Ackerson had been at the home and died after she tripped on a rug and some kind of struggle with her ex-boyfriend.
But Amanda Hayes was in another room, they say, and left the apartment for Grant Hayes to get Ackerson help without the children seeing their injured mother.
Barakat, however, said Amanda Hayes told her that she was in the room when Ackerson died.
"This was when Grant was over the body and looked up and told her that Laura was dead," Barakat said. "I asked her how that made her feel, and she said it didn't make her feel anything. She felt nothing."
Barakat went on to tell jurors that Amanda Hayes said Ackerson's death was an accident and that "it wasn't supposed to happen like this."
She never called 911, Barakat added, because she said she loved her husband "and she felt like she was doing the right thing by standing by him."
"She said if it was an accident, then they couldn't convict her of murder," Barakat said. "She was sort of sarcastic about it."
"Did she smile?" Wake County Assistant District Attorney Becky Holt asked.
"She smiled," Barakat replied.
Raleigh police arrested the Hayeses at his parents' home in Kinston early on July 25, 2011, hours after investigators pulled some of Ackerson's decomposed remains from a swampy Texas creek.
A jury found Grant Hayes, a musician, guilty in September after less than an hour of deliberations. Amanda Hayes, a former actress, is days away from learning her fate in the case.
Further trying to counter Amanda Hayes' claim that she feared her husband, Raleigh homicide Detective Jerry Faulk testified that the couple appeared to act like newlyweds when they were initially taken into custody.
"They were all lovey-dovey, if you will," Faulk said. "Walking down the hallway, Amanda was walking behind Grant and rubbing his shoulders."
The state also presented last-minute evidence – letters to Grant Hayes' mother – that also appeared to contradict Amanda Hayes' claims that she feared her husband because he threatened to kill or harm her and their children.
In a Sept. 24, 2011, letter, she wrote to Patsy Hayes: "Please tell my husband that I love him very much, and I think of him every day."
Patsy Hayes also read from two other letters, including one from Jan. 17, 2012, in which her daughter-in-law asked her to pass along a message that appeared in the page margin:
"Hello my baby," the letter reads. "I love you so much and I hope you are doing good. Please take good care of yourself. I miss everything about you and can't wait to give you a big hug and kiss."
And Barakat said in the few months she knew Amanda Hayes, she would often get pictures and go through them and talk about Grant Hayes.
"She said she loved her husband," Barakat said. "And she did."
"Not once did she say she ever was afraid of Grant?" Holt asked.
"No," Barakat said.