Jealousy takes many different forms but usually ends in disaster. When you mix jealousy with love and passion, a toxic triangle is formed, and sometimes it cannot be controlled or tamed.
Having already been convicted of murder and sentenced to jail, a man and his wife knew they were looking at some hard time for what they did to the husband’s ex-girlfriend. Years later, even more stunning and gory details about how they tried to dispose of the victim’s body would be revealed.
While things hadn’t worked out between Grant Hayes and Laura Ackerson, they had two children together, who they shared joint custody of. The two were never formally married but were good parents on the whole. So when Hayes met his future wife Amanda, there may have been more than a little mutual jealousy between the two women.
The fateful day had started much like any other for Ackerson. The kids had been staying with Hayes and his wife, and Ackerson was headed over to pick them up. However, that was the last time Ackerson was known to be alive.
Even though the real motive never came out, it was very possible that Hayes and Amanda wanted to get rid of Ackerson. However, after Ackerson was murdered by Hayes, he and Amanda tried to dispose of her body in two ways; both of which shocked and disgusted jury members and even prosecutors.
A press release explained that having killed Ackerson, the couple wasn’t sure how to dispose of the body. “Once in Richmond, the couple first attempted to use muriatic acid to destroy Ackerson’s body,” the release noted. “When that didn’t work, they took a boat onto Oyster Creek and dumped Laura’s body parts into the water with hopes that alligators would eat her remains.”
As if murdering a mother-of-two wasn’t bad enough, neither the acid attempt nor the alligator attempt worked. Having dismembered Ackerson’s body, the couple assumed the acid would dissolve her remains. When that didn’t work, they were sure that hungry alligators were the answer. But when Ackerson’s torso and leg were found floating in Oyster Creek in Richmond, it was obvious that there had been foul play.
While both Hayes and Amanda had been convicted of Laura’s murder years ago, the details of how they had killed and disposed of their victim only came out more recently. Amanda was already looking at 13-16 years behind bars for second-degree murder. Hayes, however, was looking at a life sentence after being convicted of first-degree murder.
When Amanda testified that she hadn’t killed Ackerson, she claimed that she helped her husband dispose of the body because she was “scared” of what he might do to her if she failed to assist. However, police deputies claimed that she was guilty of the crime.
When Amanda stood trial once again due to the new revelations, she was convicted of “tampering with evidence to impair its availability in an investigation.” As that’s a second-degree felony, Judge Maggie Jaramillo sentenced her to 20 years in prison, but to run consecutively with her previous conviction.
The lead prosecutor, Amanda Bolin, spoke to reporters about the case saying, “The jury verdict was swift, and the Court’s sentence was appropriately harsh. Laura Ackerson’s family can be assured that Amanda Hayes will be punished for all of her barbaric behavior – whether it was in North Carolina or the great state of Texas.”
Due to the numerous complexities of this case, a total of 49 witnesses took the stand over 13 days of grueling testimony. The trial ran for more than a month, and the jury of three men and nine women returned its verdict having spent 11 hours in final deliberations.
It’s not uncommon for murderers and people who do unthinkable things to feel guilty after the act and apologize. Amanda attempted to do this in court when she said, “I would just like to apologize with my whole heart, being and soul, personally 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.”
While Ackerson’s father didn’t believe a word of Amanda’s apology in court, claiming she was a “manipulator and a liar,” Judge Stephens also had some choice words for the convicted woman. Stephens said, “Based upon my view of the evidence, it is quite possible and likely that Amanda Hayes could have saved the life of Laura Ackerson, and she chose not to. She chose, instead, to participate in her killing.”
Amanda’s defense team claimed that she had nothing to do with the murder and was therefore innocent. They testified that it was Hayes alone who cut up Ackerson’s body, put it in coolers and carried it in a trailer without his wife’s knowledge. She claimed that he coerced her into admitting guilt for a crime she didn’t commit.
Not Her Fault
According to Amanda’s defense attorney, Johnny Gaskins, his client is not guilty, “We’re disappointed Amanda wasn’t acquitted. We believed in Amanda,” he said, “Amanda would never have been in this situation, had it not been for Grant Hayes.”
According to the Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger, the jury was right to find Amanda guilty. “I think the jury rejected her words,” he said, “and that was the clearest thing that came out today – that her act and her sentences from the witness stand were rejected by the jury.”
She Did It
According to Hayes, it was his wife Amanda who had killed Ackerson during a heated argument which took place between the two women. However, the defense claimed, Hayes was a “dangerous sociopath who used his wit and charisma to manipulate and control his wife and to take advantage of a large sum of money she received from an inheritance.”
At the time of Ackerson’s murder, the couple was almost completely broke and were facing imminent eviction from their Raleigh home. Hayes had already pawned off various pieces of expensive jewelry belonging to Amanda and possibly wanted to tap into more funds. However, child custody seemed to also be very much at play here.
Defense attorney Rosemary Godwin told the judge, “There is no reason to believe that Mrs. Hayes suffered any less domination and abuse than Laura talked about and discussed in her (child custody) case, albeit it is our position that it was more mental and emotional, and her dynamic was different.”
Cause of Death
One of the most troubling pieces of information missing from this case is how Ackerson was actually killed. While it is known that she was doused in acid and then fed to alligators, it’s not known how she was killed in the first place or by who. Obviously, that leaves many unanswered questions for the Ackerson family. Her death was ruled to be from “undetermined homicidal violence,” according to the medical examiner.
Even though the details of the murder remain unclear, as neither Hayes nor Amanda admitted any guilt, at least justice has been served. While Hayes is looking at a lifetime behind bars without parole, Amanda will also be looking at a cell wall for the foreseeable future. It’s hoped that that fact can at least bring some closure for the family of the victim.