Local News

Hayes defense wants biohazard suit tested in Ackerson killing

Posted December 19, 2013 11:20 a.m. EST
Updated December 19, 2013 6:33 p.m. EST

— Defense attorneys for a Raleigh woman set to go to trial next month for the murder of her husband’s ex-girlfriend say they recently discovered a biohazard suit and a pair of latex gloves that they contend is critical to her defense.

During a hearing Thursday, attorney Johnny Gaskins told Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens that he believes tests on the items, which were found in a Dodge Durango belonging to Amanda Hayes, will show that her husband was the one who killed and dismembered Laura Jean Ackerson more than two years ago.

Hayes, 41, is charged with first-degree murder in the 27-year-old’s death on July 13, 2011. Her remains were found 11 days later in a creek near the Richmond, Texas, home of Hayes' sister.

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

Witnesses testified in his trial that he and Ackerson were involved in a bitter custody dispute over their two young sons and that he lured her to his apartment, killed her, cut up her body and drove with his wife and children to Texas to dispose of the remains.

Amanda Hayes's attorneys have suggested in court documents that any participation their client had was while she was under duress and fearful for her life.

"We don’t know what the state intends to prove," Gaskins said. "If they don’t intend to prove that Grant Hayes was the person who killed Laura Ackerson, then we will do that."

But there were some questions from Stephens as to how crucial the body suit and gloves might be since the state has already proved Grant Hayes was guilty of first-degree murder.

"The question is whether your client had anything to do with it," Stephens told Gaskins.

Prosecutors haven't commented on Amanda Hayes' involvement but have said that she is equally culpable in the crime.

In a response filed late Thursday afternoon to the defense motion, the state said the suit and gloves belonged to investigators and that they were used "to avoid contamination of the vehicle and to make sure no potential evidence was lost."

The items, prosecutors said, were left in plain view on the front seat as part of normal protocol.

"Neither the biohazard suit taken from the Dodge Durango by the defense nor the gloves, which remain in the vehicle, were used in the commission of the murder or dismemberment of Laura Ackerson," the state's motion said.

Gaskins disagreed in an email to WRAL News.

"We have photos that the Raleigh Police Department took of the Durango before they searched it," he said. "The biohazard suit and gloves are inside the vehicle along with the items they later seized. The suit and gloves were there all along."

Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway will rule whether to allow the defense to test the items. It's unclear when that will happen.