Two weeks after Laura Jean Ackerson’s dismembered body was found in Oyster Creek near Richmond, Texas, former St. John residents Grant and Amanda Hayes have been indicted for her murder.
The Wake County grand jury in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the couple lived and where the crime is thought to have taken place, found that Grant and Amanda Hayes “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did of malice aforethought kill and murder Laura Jean Ackerson,” according to a report by Raleigh ABC affiliate WTVD.
Investigators believe that Grant and Amanda Hayes killed and dismembered Ackerson in North Carolina, then towed a rented U-Haul and drove, with all three children, to Fort Bend County, Texas, where Amanda’s sister lives, and dumped the body parts in a creek just 100 yards from the sister’s home. Several ice chests found at the scene were likely used to transport the body parts, according to WTVD’s report.
Grant and Amanda Hayes were arrested on Monday, July 25, at Grant Hayes’ parents’ home in Kinston, North Carolina. The couple has remained in the Wake County, North Carolina jail since being arrested. Amanda Hayes’ sister has not been charged with any crimes.
Six warrants released by Raleigh police – three for Grant and Amanda Hayes’ apartment, one for Ackerson’s car, one for records for a credit card held by Amanda Hayes and one for a storage unit in Raleigh – suggest that investigators’ focus is on the couple’s North Carolina home, according to a report by NBC17 in Raleigh.
Items seized from the couple’s apartment on three different days include a broom, a camcorder, carpet and padding, a comforter, hair and debris from a drain, a mattress cover, a laptop computer, pillow cases, sheets, showerheads, a toilet brush, a towel and wash cloth, a box of trash bags and a vacuum, among other items, according to the NBC17 report.
“It’s one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve seen in 30-something years of law enforcement,” Chief Deputy Craig Brady of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office told WTVD.
Grant Hayes has two young children with Ackerson and had been embroiled in a custody battle with her since 2010, when he was given primary custody. Hayes met Amanda Perry (now Hayes) on St. John sometime after he arrived on island with Ackerson in 2008. Hayes and Perry started a relationship on St. John and the couple eventually moved off island, married, and had a daughter of their own in June.
During her time on island, Perry worked as the director of the now defunct St. John Artists’ Association and opened an art store in the Lumberyard. After the association dissolved and the art store closed, Perry worked at several different jobs on island, including at the Beach Bar.
Hayes, 32, who performed as a musician under the name Grant Haze, played weekly gigs at Island Blues in Coral Bay before landing a regular gig at the Parrot Club in Cruz Bay.
Ackerson, who was just 27 years old, was reported missing on July 18 when she failed to show up to work. She was scheduled to pick up her two young boys on the previous Friday, but Hayes claimed she never showed up.
Ackerson’s brother, Jason Ackerson, claimed that Grant Hayes was “very controlling and very manipulative,” according to WTVD’s report.
“It was hard to contact her without getting in fear of her life,” Ackerson told WTVD. “And we should have taken the treats more seriously. Grant Hayes and his wife are monsters, and I hope that anybody that knows them or has followed them and enjoyed his music understands that about them.”