Jury deliberations resume in Amanda Hayes Raleigh murder trial

On Tuesday, jurors asked to see a saw which was alleged to have been used to cut up Laura Ackerson.
February 19, 2014 9:14:00 AM PST
The jury in the Raleigh murder trial of Amanda Hayes are back deliberating. Jurors got the case Monday afternoon after lawyers on both sides made their closing arguments.

Prosecutors say Amanda and her husband Grant killed 27-year-old Laura Ackerson at their Raleigh apartment in July 2011 during a long-running custody dispute over Grant's two oldest children.

Grant Hayes was convicted in the murder last year. He's serving a life sentence.

Amanda is charged with murder and accessory after the fact to murder. In his closing arguments Monday, defense attorney Johnny Gaskins told jurors that Amanda cannot be guilty of both, and she had no role in Ackerson's murder.

"There is no evidence to support that at all," said Gaskins.

Gaskins also told jurors they should acquit Amanda on the accessory charge as well.

Gaskins blamed the killing on Grant, who he characterized as a "classic sociopath."

Ackerson's body was cut up with a power saw, put in coolers, and then driven in a rented U-Haul to Amanda Hayes' sister's house in Richmond, Texas, where the body parts were dumped in a nearby creek.

During the trial, store surveillance video was shown of Grant Hayes shopping at a Walmart for a reciprocating saw and blades. In his closing, Gaskins suggested Grant had killed before and pointed to his casual demeanor in the store as evidence.

"I submit to you that he was a man who knew exactly what he wanted and he knew what he wanted because he had done it before," charged Gaskins.

Amanda Hayes' defense maintains she didn't know of the murder until after she arrived at her sister's Texas home. In testimony in her own defense last week, Amanda told jurors Grant talked her into making the trip and suggested they deliver a piece of furniture. She said Ackerson's body was hidden behind the furniture in the U-Haul.

She also said when Grant told her Ackerson was dead, he threatened her with a machete and made her help him in getting rid of the body.

Gaskins told jurors that there were two victims of Grant - both Ackerson and Amanda. He pointed out that when she met Grant, Amanda had $188,000 in savings. Within a year, all the money was gone and all of Amanda's jewelry had been sold.

"Grant Hayes had taken her for everything she was worth," said Gaskins.

But in his response, Wake County prosecutor Boz Zellinger called some of the defense assertions "ridiculous" and said many had no basis in fact.

Zellinger said Amanda was a willing participant in getting rid of Ackerson's body - pointing to surveillance pictures that show her dumping acid containers that Grant purchased to try to dissolve the body.

Zellinger also showed the jury pictures that Grant and Amanda took of themselves on the trip home from Texas that show them laughing and smiling. He asked how she could have been so afraid of Grant, but still take such photos.

In her closing arguments, prosecutor Becky Holt told jurors that Grant and Amanda had clearly reached a point of desperation in their custody battle with Ackerson. She said the couple had originally been living in New York, but got married and moved to North Carolina to win custody.

Grant estimated it would take three months, but 14 months later, they had run through their money and a court appointed psychologist was recommending joint custody.

"They were going to be stuck in Kinston or in Raleigh and having to make these trips," said Holt.

Holt also challenged Amanda's testimony that going to Texas was Grant's idea.

"Grant's never been to Texas. This is her family," said Holt. "He doesn't know what they're going to do. Does that make sense?"

Holt also took aim and Grant and Amanda's claim that Ackerson's death was an accident.

"This wasn't an accident," said Holt - asking why - if it was an accident - they didn't call 911, and why they chopped up Ackerson's body and took it to Texas.

Jurors can choose from not guilty of murder, not guilty of being an accessory, guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of second-degree murder, or accessory to murder after the fact.

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