Amanda Hayes found guilty of second-degree murder in death of Laura Ackerson

A Wake County jury found Amanda Hayes guilty of second-degree murder Wednesday after getting the case Monday afternoon.
February 19, 2014 3:25:46 PM PST
A Wake County jury found Amanda Hayes guilty of second-degree murder Wednesday after getting the case Monday afternoon.

The panel of nine women and 3 men deliberated for about 11-and-a-half hours before choosing not to convict her of the more serious charge of first-degree murder or the lesser charge of accessory.

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.

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.

Amanda's defense tried to convince jurors that Grant was completely responsible for the murder - calling him a "classic sociopath" who killed and dismembered Ackerson without Amanda's knowledge. It said Grant fooled Amanda into taking the trip to her sister's in Texas by telling her they would deliver a piece of furniture, and when they got there, forcing her to take part in getting rid of the body.

But prosecutors said Amanda was a willing participant in the killing. At sentencing, Judge Donald Stephens told lawyers that after listening to all the evidence, he believes Amanda could have prevented the murder.

"It is quite possible that Amanda Hayes could have saved the life of Laura Ackerson and chose not to," said Judge Stephens.

Defense attorney Rosemary Godwin asked Stephens to consider the mental abuse that Amanda suffered in her relationship with Grant and the fear she was in.

"It is extraordinary unlikely that Ms. Hayes would ever have found herself in a courtroom," said Godwin.

Speaking for herself, Amanda apologized to the courtroom.

"I would just like to apologize with my whole heart, being and soul, first to Laura. I apologize to her, to her family, to her children, to my family, to Grant's family, to everyone who had to work this case, to everyone who had to sit through this trial, to everyone who is in the media who has had to watch and at least touched their lives," said Hayes. "I am so, so sorry that this touched my life in any shape, form or fashion or anyone I love to care about or anyone and I am truly, truly sorry with every ounce of my soul."

Judge Stephens sentenced her to a range of just over 13 years to 16-and-a-half years in prison.

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

Ackerson and Grant's two children - along with the daughter he and Amanda had together - are in the custody of Grant's parents.

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