Local News

Raleigh man appealing conviction for ex-girlfriend's murder

Posted September 4, 2014 3:25 p.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2014 3:38 p.m. EDT

Grant Hayes sits during his trial on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, for the July 2011 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Laura Ackerson.

— A year after he went to trial for killing his ex-girlfriend, a Raleigh man is asking the North Carolina Court of Appeals to overturn his conviction, claiming evidence presented to jurors was irrelevant to the case and unfair.

Among the six issues outlined in the 171-page brief filed last week is that the jury shouldn't have heard from a psychologist who concluded that Grant Hayes wanted to "obliterate" Laura Ackerson and also that they shouldn't have heard about lyrics to a song he wrote called "Man Killer."

Hayes, 35, is serving life in prison after being found guilty Sept. 16, 2013, of first-degree murder in Ackerson's 2011 death. The 27-year-old's dismembered remains were found several days after she was reported missing in a creek about 60 miles from Houston, Texas.

Both Hayes and Ackerson had been battling for custody of their two young sons and, as part of that fight, they submitted to a court-ordered psychological evaluation in which witnesses at trial said the results favored Ackerson and angered Hayes.

Dr. Ginger Calloway, who performed the analysis, talked about Hayes' history of drug use and other mental health-related matters and surmised that he and his wife wanted Ackerson out of their lives and the lives of the children.

But appellate attorney Glenn Gerding wrote in the appeal that Calloway wasn't testifying as an expert witness and that her testimony was misleading and "nothing more than bad character evidence."

"Dr. Calloway's belief that Grant wanted to 'obliterate' Laura and that he had a 'determined agenda' amounted to her opinion that he had the intent and deliberation to kill her," Gerding wrote. "That opinion was irrelevant and was for the jury to determine.

"There is a reasonable possibility that, but for Dr. Calloway's testimony and report, there would have been a different result, in the state cannot show that the constitutional error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt," Gerding added.

Found in Hayes' apartment, the lyrics to "Man Killer" contain the lines: "Tell'em she died fast, they'll know she wasn't in pain … I'm not the one to make you scream, I'm just the one to make you bleed … I'll put my hands on your throat and scream."

Gerding wrote that they, too, were irrelevant because the state presented no evidence for the jury to conclude that Hayes wrote them during his relationship with Ackerson.

"The trial court failed to make any findings of the lyrics of the song were similar to the allegations here, or that the lyrics referred to Laura," he said.

Ackerson was last seen alive on the afternoon of July 13, 2011, and prosecutors argued that Hayes lured her to his home and killed her.

Security cameras at a local Walmart caught him buying a reciprocating saw and other items that the state maintained he used to get rid of Ackerson's remains.

Prosecutors said he then rented a U-Haul and drove with his wife, Amanda Hayes, and his children to her sister's home across the street from the Texas creek.

Hayes has denied killing Ackerson, saying that he helped cover up her death to protect Amanda Hayes, who he claims killed Ackerson during an argument.

At her trial earlier this year, however, Amanda Hayes told jurors that she only helped cover up the crime because Grant Hayes threatened her.

She was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving 13 to 16 years in prison.