RALEIGH NC July 27 2011 Police say a Raleigh musician and his wife killed a Kinston mother here, dismembered her body, packed the pieces in coolers and loaded them aboard a rented U-Haul trailer before dumping the remains in a creek 1,250 miles away outside Houston.
Grant Ruffin Hayes, 32, and Amanda Perry Hayes, 39, were arrested early Monday at a house at 1505 Holman St. in Kinston, brought to Raleigh and charged with murdering Laura Jean Ackerson, 27.
Ackerson was Grant Hayes’ ex-girlfriend, and they had been embroiled in a bitter custody fight over their two young children, according to Lenoir County court records.
Relatives of Amanda Hayes in Richmond, Texas, told investigators that she and Grant Hayes had come to visit her sister after Ackerson was killed, said Craig Brady, chief deputy for the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office. While there, relatives said, the pair carried coolers they brought from Raleigh to Oyster Creek.
Investigators from Raleigh and Fort Bend County searched the creek Sunday afternoon and found parts of a torso they think is Ackerson’s caught in the weeds growing in the creek, Brady said.
They then called in divers to look for the rest of the body. On Monday afternoon, divers found a leg and a head, which police expect will speed identification. Otherwise it would have required DNA testing.
Swamp on the way
It was puzzling, Brady said, that someone would kill, dismember the victim and drive more than 1,000 miles, past any number of secluded locations seemingly better suited for hiding a body, then dump it only 100 yards from the home of someone with whom they were so easy to link.
“So they drove through, what, five or six states and over a 40-mile-wide swamp in Louisiana, all so they can bring the body here?” he said. “Fortunately for police, criminals just aren’t very smart.”
Investigators confiscated several coolers and a machete from the home of Hayes’ sister that they think were used in the case, Brady said. The coolers and machete appeared to have been washed, he said, but if they were used in the killing, there was a high likelihood that useful traces of blood would remain.
The body, Brady said, appeared to have been dismembered at least partly with a saw.
No charges are expected against Amanda Hayes’ relatives in Texas, he said.
Car found in Raleigh
According to arrest warrants for the Hayeses, investigators think Ackerson was killed in Wake County on July 13.
Kinston police said Ackerson dropped her two children off at Grant Hayes’ home that day and that a business associate reported her missing two days later when she did not pick up the children. Her Ford Focus was discovered July 20 in Raleigh, parked near 5400 Summit Manor Lane.
Raleigh investigators went to Texas on Sunday after learning that Grant and Amanda Hayes had traveled there after Ackerson disappeared, Brady said. Once in Richmond, a suburb of Houston, they called the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Office on Sunday afternoon to seek assistance and as a matter of protocol.
Sheriff’s deputies accompanied Raleigh officers when they went to the house to question Hayes’ relatives and then joined the Raleigh officers in the search at the creek that turned up the first parts of the body, Brady said. Mainly, though, the Raleigh investigators took the lead.
Raleigh police remained tight-lipped about the details of the investigation Monday, but Brady gave them a gushing review.
“They were aggressive in pursuing this and did an outstanding job of developing information from the leads they got, and I think the case they’re developing will lead to a successful conclusion to the case,” he said. “I think there is going to be a good resolution to this case based on the quality of the forensic information from the items that were seized.”
Musician, preacher’s kid
Grant Hayes, goes by the name Grant Haze. According to his Facebook site, he was originally from Tennessee and graduated from Kinston High School in 1997.
He’s the son of a minister and has been recording music since he was 18, Hayes said in an August 2010 interview posted on YouTube. He said that he changed his name to Haze and used that name when marrying Amanda and when naming his children.
Authorities, however, continue to use Hayes.
Hayes described himself as an acoustic soul singer. He has a small following on Myspace; his songs and interviews on YouTube typically had between 100 and 200 hits as of Monday morning.
On Wednesday, a week after Ackerson disappeared and the day her car was found, Hayes was scheduled to perform at the Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant in Raleigh, according to the restaurant’s website.
He and his wife were being held Monday night at Wake County jail without benefit of bail.
Looking for more
Divers are expected to return to Oyster Creek this morning looking for more remains. On Monday, divers from the Richmond Fire Department were joined by a dive team from the Houston Police Department, said Bob Haenel, a spokesman for the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.
It was slow, hot work Monday. With temperatures around 100, the water in the creek was searingly hot and dark brown with silt, Haenel said. The divers, clad in heat-trapping wetsuits, couldn’t see underwater and had to rely on their hands and sonar devices.
Brady said they would continue looking until they felt reasonably sure there was little likelihood of finding more remains.