Opening statements in Amanda Hayes trial in death of Laura Ackerson this afternoon


Prosecutors say Amanda and her husband Grant - aka Grant Haze - killed the 27 year old at their Raleigh apartment in July 2011 during a long-running custody dispute.

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.

In his opening statement, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger called the killing "barbaric" and "brutal."

And Zellinger said Amanda was responsible for the murder - quoting her sister who will testify later in the trial that Amanda told her "I hurt her bad. She's dead."

But Amanda's attorney Johnny Gaskins said Grant was completely responsible for the murder. Gaskins called him a "classic sociopath" who killed and dismembered Ackerson without Amanda's knowledge.

"Amanda had absolutely nothing to do with it," said Gaskins.

He said Grant fooled Amanda into taking the trip to her sister's in Texas by telling her they would deliver a piece of furniture.

When they got to Texas, Gaskins said Grant revealed the truth and threatened Amanda with a machete unless she helped convince her sister to help them get rid of the body.

Gaskins said the fear made her cooperate from that point on.

Gaskins also told jurors that his theory is that Grant wanted to go to Texas - instead of getting rid of the body locally - was to get Amanda to tell her sister she did it, in order to pin the whole thing on her.

Grant Hayes was convicted of murder last year. He's currently serving a life sentence at the Pasquotank Correctional Center.

In a phone interview with ABC11 from prison earlier this month, Grant said he is not guilty. He claimed Amanda killed Ackerson in an act of self defense. He said the women argued when Ackerson came to the apartment to make a cash deal for custody of the two children she and Grant had together.

"As Amanda was walking away, Laura snatched her back by her hair after telling her she was going to take her child from her. And Amanda told me that she forcefully hit her in the throat with her elbow," said Hayes.

Hayes said he should have called 911 but instead made a bad decision to dispose of the body. He said he drank a half bottle of vodka to get up the nerve to dismember the corpse.

Hayes said he is willing to testify if either side calls him to the witness stand.

The trial could last up to four weeks.

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