Amanda Perry Hayes, above at left, and her husband Grant Hayes, above at right, face charges of first-degree murder in North Carolina. The couple are accused of murdering the mother of Grant Hayes’ two children, Laura Ackerson, below, in 2011. Photos Courtesy of WRAL.com
A Superior Court judge in North Carolina ruled last week to separate the trials of former St. John residents Grant Hayes and Amanda Perry Hayes, who are facing first-degree murder charges.
The former St. John residents are accused of killing and dismembering Grant Hayes’ ex-girlfriend, and the mother of his two children, Laura Ackerson of Kinston, North Carolina, in July 2011.
Amanda Hayes, 41, and Grant Hayes, 33, who were living in Raleigh, North Carolina at the time, are accused of killing Ackerson, 27, dismembering her and transporting the remains to Texas. Ackerson’s remains were found in a creek near the home of Amanda Hayes’ sister, about 60 miles south of Houston.
Both defense attorneys originally agreed to a joint trial, which was set for May 20. Lately, however, Amanda Hayes seems to have turned on her husband.
Earlier this month Amanda Hayes fired her court appointed attorney and hired defense lawyer Johnny Gaskins. Attorney Gaskins filed more than 30 motions on Amanda Hayes behalf, claiming “that she participated in Ackerson’s death while under duress, feared for her life and that Grant Hayes, while in jail, threatened to kill her,” according to a report on www.wral.com.
On Monday, April 22, Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ruled in favor of a motion filed by Grant Hayes’ defense attorney Jeff Cutler requesting to separate their trials.
“Clearly, based on filings of Amanda Hayes and her attorneys, it is now apparent that we have antagonistic defenses based on the readings of her motions,” Cutler was quoted in a report on www.wral.com. “Clearly, they’re going to attempt to make him look bad. That is part of their defense, and I don’t believe that’s a manageable way to try a joint trial.”
State prosecutors and Amanda Hayes’ attorney Gaskins both opposed the motion. The state prosecutor asserted that Amanda Hayes was a principal in the crime, according to the North Carolina news website.
“The state’s evidence on Amanda Hayes shows her as, not just a conspirator and not just acting in concert, but as a principal in this crime,” Wake County Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger was quoted in the report on www.wral.com.
“We believe it is to her benefit that they be joined,” Gaskins was quoted in a report on http://triangle.news14.com.
Citing concerns of a mistral, Stephens granted the motion to separate trials, according to the http://triangle.news14.com report.
“We have a situation in which the state and the co-defendant are proving the other defendant’s guilt,” Stephens was quoted in the report. “I can try these cases one at a time and with both of them we’ll be guaranteed an absolutely and completely fair trial.”
Amanda Hayes’ trail is still scheduled to begin on May 20, while Stephens scheduled Grant Hayes’ new trail date for late August, according to the www.wral.com report.
While prosecutors have not publicly spoken of a motive for the crime, Grant Hayes was in a custody battle with Ackerson over the couple’s two children, the victim’s family members told reporters in the wake of her killing.
It remained unclear last week how exactly Ackerson was killed. Texas medical examiners discovered injuries which suggested sharp force to her neck, but there were also signs that someone tried to strangle her, according to the www.wral.com report.
“Texas authorities who found Ackerson’s body and later turned the case over to Raleigh police, say they believe the Hayeses killed Ackerson, cut up her body and carried it in coolers to Texas, where they disposed of her remains in the creek,” according to the report on www.wral.com.