RALEIGH (WTVD) – A clearly irritated Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens chastised Amanda Hayes’ defense team Thursday morning when they didn’t show up on time.
Lawyers said there had been a miscommunication over when court would begin following a day off caused by the winter weather, but Stephens told them he was “disappointed they weren’t more proactive” about finding out when court would start – pointing out everyone else – including the jury – knew when to show up.
After the delay, testimony resumed with Hayes’ daughter Sha Guddat on the stand.
Prosecutors say Amanda and her husband Grant – aka Grant Haze – killed 27-year-old Laura Ackerson at their Raleigh apartment in July 2011 during a long-running custody dispute over Grant’s two oldest children.
Ackerson’s body was cut up with a power saw, put in coolers, and then driven in a rented U-Haul to Amanda Hayes’ sister’s house in Richmond, Texas, where the body parts were dumped in a nearby creek.
Before the murder, Grant and Amanda had custody of the two boys and Ackerson had visitation rights.
Grant Hayes was convicted of murder last year. He’s currently serving a life sentence at the Pasquotank Correctional Center.
Prosecutors allege Amanda took part in the murder and disposal of the body, but her defense blames the killing on Grant who it’s characterized as a sociopath and master manipulator. Attorney Johnny Gaskins told jurors in his opening statement that Amanda actually didn’t know Ackerson was dead until they got to Texas. He said Grant dismembered the body somewhere else and got Amanda to go to Texas by encouraging her to visit her sister and deliver a piece of furniture.
Gaskins also told jurors Grant hid the body in a U-Haul and threatened Amanda with a machete to get her to take part in disposing of the corpse after they arrived at the sister’s house.
But on the witness stand Thursday, Guddat testified about what she saw in Grant and Amanda’s apartment after the date detectives believe Ackerson was murdered.
Guddat said there was the strong smell of bleach, and there was a wet towel – apparently soaked in bleach – on the carpet.
“It was very strange to me. The house smelled like bleach. My mom doesn’t use bleach to clean,” said Guddat.
She testified the smell was so strong she opened windows to air out the apartment.
During Guddat’s testimony, jurors also got to hear a song Grant allegedly wrote and performed with Ackerson in mind.
Titled “Broomstick Rider,” the lyrics include the line “You must have told your attorney I got intentions on killing you. What? (unintelligible) Might stop me, but my bullets will get you soon.”
Guddat also spoke of Grant and Amanda’s money troubles, saying thousands of dollars worth of Amanda’s jewelry was sold, along with furniture.
“It was obvious Grant didn’t have any money, my mom paid for everything,” she said.
The trial could last up to four weeks.