Amanda Smith Hayes pictured at the then Artist Association of St. John gallery in October 2007.
Former St. John resident Amanda Hayes, 41, will face a jury of her peers on Monday, January 27, as her trial for first degree murder officiallly begins at 9:30 a.m. in a Wake County, North Carolina courtroom.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers spent three days last week vetting potential jurors and finally wrapped up jury selection on Thursday afternoon, January 23.
Hayes is accused of killing 27-year-old Laura Ackerson in July 2011, dismembering the mother of two and dumping her body parts in a creek near Amanda Hayes’ sister’s Texas home.
Ackerson was in a heated custody battle with Hayes’ husband Grant Hayes, with whom she had two sons. Ackerson and Grant Hayes, a musician who played regular gigs at several Cruz Bay bars, lived on St. John with their two sons for several months. It was on St. John that Grant Hayes met Amanda, whose last name was Perry at the time.
Amanda and Grant Hayes moved back stateside together after Ackerson returned to North Carolina with her two sons.
Amanda and Grant Hayes were married, living in Raleigh, North Carolina, and had an infant daughter in July 2011 when prosecutors allege they lured Ackerson to their apartment where they killed her and cut her body up with a power saw.
The Hayeses are accused of putting Ackerson’s body parts in coolers and transporting them in a rented U-Haul van to Richmond, Texas where they dumped them in a creek near the home of Amanda Hayes’ sister.
Grant Hayes was convicted of first degree murder in October, 2013, and is serving a life sentence in Pasquotank Correctional Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. During his trial, defense lawyers alleged that Grant Hayes did not kill Ackerson and only helped Amanda Hayes dispose of the body. The jury didn’t buy it and convicted him of first degree murder after less than two hours of deliberation.
Grant Hayes is expected to be called as a witness and in a jail cell interview with local North Carolina ABC 11, maintained his innocence and said he would testify if called to the stand.
“In a phone interview with ABC11 from prison last week, Grant said he is not guilty,” according to the report on www.abclocal.go. “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,’” Grant Hayes is quoted in the online news story. “‘And Amanda told me that she forcefully hit her in the throat with her elbow,” said Hayes.”
Instead of calling 911, Grant Hayes said he drank half a bottle of vodka and worked up the nerve to dismember Ackerson, according to the www.abclocal.go story.
“Hayes said he should have called 911 but instead made a bad decision to dispose of the body,” according to the report. “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.”
Amanda Hayes’ defense lawyers are expected to paint Grant Hayes as the killer and allege that Amanda Hayes was in fear for her life, according to a report on WRAL.com.
“Defense attorneys have claimed that Amanda Hayes was scared for her life and that any involvement she might have had in Ackerson’s death was because she was under duress,” according to the report.
If convicted, Amanda Hayes faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole.