Detectives testify in case of slain Kinston mother

Sep. 04, 2013 @ 09:33 PM

RALEIGH — Police detectives found discarded containers of muriatic acid near the Texas creek where the dismembered remains of a Kinston woman were recovered more than two years ago, one of the detectives testified Wednesday.

Sgt. Robert Latour said the containers were similar to the ones that a security camera captured Grant Hayes, 34, buying at a Texas Home Depot on July 19, 2011. That was six days after Laura Jean Ackerson, 27, was last seen alive and a day after a colleague reported her missing.

Hayes and his wife, Amanda Perry Hayes, 41, are each charged in the case. Hayes faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Prosecutors contend that the couple planned and carried out Ackerson's death at their Raleigh apartment, cut up her body and traveled with it in coolers approximately 1,200 miles to Richmond, Texas, about 60 miles southwest of Houston and eventually threw them in a creek near the home of the victim's sister.

Ackerson's family had said she and Grant Hayes were in a bitter custody battle.

A dive team recovered Ackerson's legs, her torso, which had been split in half, and her skull, Latour said during nearly four hours of testimony.

"It was immediately apparent to me that the condition of the skull was much different than the other recovered remains," Latour said. "The skin from the face appeared to have slid down and it collected near the jaw. There were large portions of facial bones that were exposed."

An anthropologist was later called in to determine if acid was responsible for the skull damage, Latour said, but prosecutors never asked him about the results of the testing.

On cross-examination, Latour said that while it was Grant Hayes who bought the acid, it was Amanda Hayes who was captured on a hidden camera in her nephew's truck discarding the acid containers.

Defense attorneys contend that Amanda Hayes killed Ackerson during a fight and that Grant Hayes made a "terrible mistake" to cover for his wife by helping dispose of Ackerson's remains. Amanda Hayes' case has not gone to trial.