Convicted killer speaks out in wife's defense before her murder trial
Posted January 17, 2014 3:45 p.m. EST
Updated January 17, 2014 8:06 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh man convicted of murdering his former girlfriend says her death almost three years ago was an accident and that neither he nor his wife is guilty of the crime.
Grant Ruffin Hayes was found guilty in September of first-degree murder in the July 2011 death of Laura Jean Ackerson and is serving life in prison at Pasquotank Correctional Institution without the possibility of parole.
His wife, Amanda Perry Hayes, also is charged with murder in Ackerson's death and goes on trial next week. Her lawyers have said that they might call Grant Hayes as a defense witness.
"My wife is not guilty of murder in any sense of the word," Grant Hayes said Friday in a telephone interview with WRAL News from prison. "This was not a murder that took place, and justice will not be served if she were to be convicted of murder."
Investigators say Ackerson was visiting the Hayeses on July 13, 2011. Eleven days later, her remains were found in a creek near the Richmond, Texas, home of Amanda Hayes' sister.
Grant Hayes said he and Ackerson were negotiating a settlement to a custody dispute over their two sons, and she and Amanda Hayes got into an altercation when he was out of the room.
"Words were exchanged, and Laura jumped Amanda," he said. "Amanda tells me that (Laura) had made a threat to take her child away from her, and the next thing she knew, Laura had her by the hair and was dragging her."
Amanda Hayes elbowed Ackerson in the neck, and she crumpled to the floor, he said.
"When I come into the living room, my oldest son, Grant, who was on the couch during all this conversation, is standing up now looking over the couch at his mother on the floor," he said. "I wouldn't even say it was a minute before Laura died right there in front of me and my son."
Grant Hayes said planned to call police to report Ackerson's death, but he panicked.
"This traumatized me. I was stunned. It was surreal," he said. "My inaction and indecision was one bad decision that committed us to several bad decisions."
Prosecutors say the Hayeses cut Ackerson's body up, loaded the parts into coolers and headed off for Texas to dispose of them.
"There's no defense for it," Grant Hayes said the effort to cover up Ackerson's death. "What we did was awful."
At the time, he said, he was trying to keep his family together, fearing that his two children with Ackerson and his daughter with Amanda Hayes would be put in foster care while authorities investigated the death. He also said he doubted authorities would believe Amanda Hayes' story of how Ackerson died and would eventually pin the death on him.
"Here I am, a black man in an apartment with a dead white lady who's been suing me," he said. "(My wife's) story didn't seem strong enough to compel someone to believe that there wasn't foul play involving me."
During Grant Hayes' trial, his defense team pointed the finger at Amanda Hayes as the murderer. He said Friday that the facts of the case still point to that.
"If you look at the facts of this case, (Ackerson's) body being found where it was found, (Amanda Hayes) involving her sister, this was Amanda's show," he said. "I'm not trying to give them impression that I'm pushing blame and responsibility off on Amanda. I was just as much invested in protecting my family as she was."
Amanda Hayes' attorney, Johnny Gaskins, is expected to argue that Grant Hayes killed Ackerson and that Amanda Hayes helped dispose of the body only because she feared for her and the children's safety.
Grant Hayes said his attorneys advised him against testifying during his trial, but he wanted to speak out before his wife's trial because he doesn't want her to share his fate.
"I love my wife. I took a vow to protect my wife," he said. "Laura got herself killed."
Gaskins and Wake County Assistant District Attorney Becky Holt declined to comment on Grant Hayes' comments.