Murder suspect testifies in her own defense at Raleigh trial
RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — Amanda Hayes took the witness stand in her own defense Tuesday and told jurors she did not kill Laura Ackerson and did not participate in dismembering her body.
“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.
Amanda’s testimony was to continue Tuesday afternoon following a lunch break.