Friend: Grant Hayes, wife not 'monsters'

July 27, 2011 6:33:38 AM PDT
Very few people have been willing to talk about their relationships with Grant Hayes, who is charged in connection with the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Laura Ackerson.

Texas authorities confirmed the identity of Ackerson's dismembered body Tuesday through dental records.

Hayes, 32, and his wife, 39-year-old Amanda Perry Hayes, are both charged with first-degree murder in the case. Investigators say they believe Ackerson was killed in North Carolina and Hayes and his wife took her body to Texas in ice coolers before dumping it in a creek.

A close friend of Hayes' says she knew and loved Grant Hayes, his wife, Amanda Hayes, and Ackerson. And, Julie McKnight also says she did not see any signs that would lead to murder.

McKnight is a singer and the ex-wife of R&B singer Brian McKnight. She says she met Grant Hayes ten years ago.

"I saw him performing, and he asked if somebody knew this song he was singing and I got up and started singing with him and that was it," she recalled. "Yeah, he turned into my baby brother that night."

McKnight says she and Hayes stayed very close and she watched as he fell in love with Ackerson.

"It happened real quick and all of a sudden, we knew just knew he's in love again," Mcknight said.

She described Hayes as "generally soft spoken and in the cut, very supportive of him as he was with her."

McKnight says she was even there for the birth of their first child. She says the couple was affectionate and had arguments but nothing out of the ordinary.

When that relationship ended, McKnight says she watched as Hayes fell in love with Amanda Perry.

"It was a more mature relationship, and it seemed to have been a healthier one," McKnight said. "He was...he just flourished with her. Laura was quiet, but that wasn't just the norm all the time. But Amanda was very, just, she [was] just like bright and everybody was made to feel comfortable and happy and that's how you felt."

McKnight says she last spoke with Grant a few weeks ago. When she found out Ackerson went missing, turned up dead, and that Grant and Amanda were charged with the crime, she was floored.

"It's the Twilight Zone," she said. "Everything can look a certain way, which is not a good look right now. But I can't just say that I think about it any kind of way. I mean, you can't logically. Everything just feels bad."

McKnight says she refuses to characterize Grant and Amanda as monsters and disputes the allegations that Grant was the bad guy in his and Ackerson's relationship.

"There was a level of manipulation on both sides and I mean, that just was the case," she added. "But it wasn't this and, monsters? No. Looking very bad right now? Yeah."

McKnight says she considers Hayes' children her nephews and niece. Right now she is most concerned about their well being.

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