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The Murder of Laura Jean Ackerson

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In 2011 a North Carolina resident named Amanda Perry Hayes was sentenced to 13-16 years in  prison for her involvement in the murder of Miss Laura Jean Ackerson. Ackerson was the ex-girlfriend of Amanda's husband, Mr. Grant Ruffin Hayes III, who was sentenced to life in prison for first degree murder. 

The Murder of Laura Jean Ackerson

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In 2011 Miss Ackerson was living in an apartment with her two young children in Rayleigh, North Carolina. She was enjoying her independence and had just started two new Graphic design businesses and things seemed to be going well for the 27 year old. Life wasn’t perfect just yet, however, as she was still locked in a custody battle with her ex-partner, Grant Hayes.

The Murder of Laura Jean Ackerson

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On the 13th of July 2011, Laura Jean Ackerson vanished. She was quickly reported missing by a co-worker when she neglected to pick up her sons from Mr. Hayes. CCTV footage from the day shows Mr. Hayes standing with his sons at a nearby gas station for almost an hour, waiting for Ackerson to pick up the kids. She never showed up. 

Laura was never late to pick up her kids. It was completely out of character for her.

For 11 long day’s friends, family and co-workers tried to make contact with the missing 27 year old, to no avail.  Then, on the 24th of July, a gruesome discovery was made over 1200 miles away in Richmond Texas. A severed head and leg were found caught up in a patch of water Thyme by Skinner Lake around the 4300 block.

Police positively identified the remains as that of Laura Jean Ackerson and through investigation, a brutal and tragic story began to take shape.

Laura had been murdered in her ex-boyfriends third floor apartment in North Carolina on the same day that she went missing. Although they changed stories, lied and eventually began to blame each other in court, Amanda Perry Hayes and Grant Hayes were charged with the murder. Autopsy would later reveal evidence of homicidal violence with injuries often found in cases of asphyxiation, as well as possible blunt force trauma to the neck.

After killing Miss Ackerson in their home the couple decapitated her body, sawing off the head separating the limbs from the torso in order to make the body easier to transport across state lines. They packed the remains into coolers, loaded them up into a rented U-Haul van and drove over 1200 miles to Amanda's sister’s home in Richmond.

Once in Richmond, far from the scene of the murder back in North Carolina, they began to attempt to dissolve Ackerson’s decapitated remains in Muriatic acid. Grant picked up the acid on the 19th of July from a Home Depot in the area. He told the cashier that he intended to use it to clean out a pig pen and the employee later testified in court.

Muriatic acid, or, industrial Hydrochloric acid, is known for its strong corrosive properties and is widely available for purchase at DIY stores. The couple thought it would get the job done, but soon realized that the chemical was not breaking down the remains as quickly as they would have liked. The Hayes decided to move on to plan B- alligators.

Dissatisfied with the effects of the muriatic acid, they rented a boat and took it out onto Oyster creek, an 84km long river running from Fort Bend to the Gulf of Mexico. Once they were satisfied with how far out they had gone, they dumped the remains over the side of the boat, expecting that passing hungry alligators would take care of the rest.

The remains floated down the creek and stayed intact until discovery. The torso was found shortly afterwards, 50 yards from the home of Amanda’s sister. Investigators would later turn up damning surveillance footage of Amanda Hayes pouring out bottles of muriatic acid nearby.

In court, Amanda's sister revealed that Amanda had openly confessed to the murder and dismemberment of Laura Ackerson. During the trial, emails between Ackerson and the Hayes were presented to the jury. In the emails it is clear that Amanda and Grant were not on good terms with Laura Jean. At one point Laura asked Amanda not to make a scene in front of her children. Grant continued to email his ex-partner after the murder, most likely in an attempt to keep up the facade that he had no involvement with her disappearance and death. Two days after her murder he angrily accused Ackerson of “going dark” on him and told her that he had nothing more to say to her- a very eerie phrase indeed considering that he and his wife had murdered and dismembered the young woman only a day or so before.

The Murder of Laura Jean Ackerson

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When forensic investigators searched the apartment it was evident that bleach had been used to scrub down the scene, destroying all but one drop of blood found on the bed. A letter agreeing to end the bitter custody battle for the children in exchange for $25,000 was found signed and dated by both Laura and Grant on July 13th. The letter stated that Laura Jean would give up custody in return for a payout and although the writing did seem to match when compared to a sample of Laura’s handwriting it is not 100% confirmed that she herself signed the makeshift document. Suspiciously the court hearing to determine who got custody of the boys was only one month away and Laura was confident that she would be granted full custody of her young sons. Both Amanda and Grant Hayes wanted Laura Jean to have minimal, if any, contact with her kids and this is thought to be the motivation for the murder.

 Friends and family insisted that Miss Ackerson would never give up custody, no matter how much money she was offered, and were convinced that it was just another detail in what appeared to be a very well organized and premeditated murder concocted by the Hayes to remove Ackerson from their lives.

Amanda Hayes tried to convince the court that she had been forced to commit the crimes with threats of violence, but it was determined that her husband had never been physically violent to her. She was sentenced to 13-16 years for second degree murder and has been recently handed an extra 20 years for tampering with a body / evidence in Texas.

Grant Hayes is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The couple are now divorced. 

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