Jury Finds Grant Hayes Guilty of First Degree Murder, Sentenced to Life in Prison

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A Raleigh, North Carolina jury found Grant Hayes guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced the former St. John resident to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Monday, September 16.

Jurors deliberated for less than two hours before handing down the first-degree murder sentence, according to a report on wral.com, a Raleigh, North Carolina area online news site.

Grant Hayes, 34, was accused of killing and dismembering his ex-girlfriend and the mother of two of his children, Laura Ackerson, in July 2011. Ackerson and Grant Hayes were in the middle of a heated custody battle when prosecutors say he murdered the then 27-year-old mother of two.

Prosecutors accused Grant Hayes and his current wife Amanda, also a former St. John resident, of luring Ackerson to their Raleigh apartment and killing her before dismembering her, putting the remains in coolers and transporting them in a rented U-Haul to Amanda Hayes’ sister’s house in Richmond, Texas, where they dumped the body parts into a creek.

Amanda Hayes, 41, is awaiting a separate trial for murder, which is scheduled for January 2014.

During last week’s trial, jurors watched video security footage of Grant Hayes buying a saw at a Raleigh Walmart, which prosecutors said he used to dismember Ackerson, according to the wral.com report.

“Footage from a Home Depot in Texas showed him buying acid that the state argued was poured on her severed head before Hayes dumped it in the creek,” according to the report.

Grant Hayes did more than kill and dispose of Ackerson’s body,  Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger said during the trial, according to the report on wral.com.

“He didn’t just dispose of her body,” Zellinger is quoted on wral.com. “He engraved his hate by cutting off her head. That dismemberment means more than just disposing of the body. It’s extreme abhorrence of the person he killed. What more dehumanizing things could you do to a person?”

Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in this case, according to the report.

During last week’s closing argument’s Grant Hayes’ lawyer tried to pin the murder squarely on Amanda Hayes, according to the wral.com report.

“Grant Hayes helped dispose of Laura Ackerson’s body because of his wife,” defense attorney Will Durham was quoted in the report. “That’s a terrible thing — and it’s a serious crime, but that’s not what this case is about.

This case is not about disposing of a body. It’s a terrible thing, but it’s not murder.”

The jury, however, did not buy that version of events and spent less than two hours deciding on their verdict.
After the first-degree murder verdict was handed down, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens sentenced Grant Hayes to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“I think a jury verdict in an hour and a half speaks volumes,” Superior Court Judge Stephens was quoted in a report on abclocal.com.