Amanda Hayes testifies in her own defense at Raleigh murder trial


"I absolutely did not," said Hayes.

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

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

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.

Prosecutors allege Amanda took part in the murder and disposal of the body, but her defense blames the killing on Grant who it's characterized as a sociopath and master manipulator.

On the witness stand, Amanda described her life and how she met Grant - who she described as a talented musician. She said while Grant pursued his career, she paid most of the bills. Amanda described how they quickly ran out of cash, thanks in part to the legal bills associated with the custody dispute over the children. She said Grant encouraged her to pawn her jewelry and a watch to pay what they owed.

Amanda was also pregnant with Grant's child.

"I felt like I was in over my head," testified Amanda. "I was just scared."

Defense attorney Johnny Gaskins told jurors in his opening statement that Amanda actually didn't know Ackerson was dead until they got to Texas. He said Grant dismembered the body somewhere else and got Amanda to go to Texas by encouraging her to visit her sister and deliver a piece of furniture.

Gaskins also told jurors Grant hid the body in the U-Haul and threatened Amanda with a machete to get her to take part in disposing of the corpse after they arrived at the sister's house.

On the witness stand, Amanda said Grant first told her "What would you say if I told you Laura was dead."

When she began questioning him, Amanda said "He wacked me on the leg with the machete and told me to shut the F up."

"I had to help him get rid of this body or none of us were getting back to Raleigh," Amanda testified.

Amanda testified that Grant told her she had to convince her sister to help them because he "was a black guy she had only just met." And she needed to tell her sister that she was the one who killed Ackerson.

"I never touched her at all," Amanda testified.

Amanda told jurors she was afraid and that Grant told her he had killed a person before.

"He told me I wouldn't see [my daughter] again," said Amanda. "I was scared that he would have someone come and get her."

"I was trying to get him away from my family," she testified.

Hayes testified Grant attempted to use acid purchased at a home improvement store to dissolve the body but that didn't work. She said Grant then borrowed a boat from her sister and they paddled out into a creek by the house and Grant dumped the body parts in the water.

Amanda testified that Grant's behavior got progressively more paranoid.

"He had the machete with him all the time," said Amanda.

On the drive back to North Carolina, Amanda testified Grant got angry when their infant wouldn't stop crying.

"He told me that if I couldn't get her to shut up he was going to throw her out of the car," said Amanda.

Under cross examination, Amanda denied helping Grant throw body parts out of the boat. She said she was paddling and was concerned with keeping the boat from sinking.

"He was behind me and I didn't see him," she testified.

Hayes said on the drive back to North Carolina, Grant kept an eye on her at all times and kept the car keys.

Judge Donald Stephens called it a day at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday with Hayes still on the stand under cross examination. He didn't immediately say if he planned to hold court Wednesday with the pending winter weather.

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