Helena Gudell’s Wonderland: Lights, Camera, Murder?

In the summer of 2011, at a time when most families are vacationing one family was committing murder and taking a trip to cover it up. That is the story of actress Amanda Hayes and her musician husband Grant Hayes. 

Ok for starters lets cover the bases of who everyone is. Grant Hayes is a non-signed artist in North Carolina. His wife Amanda is an actress who has had minor roles in shows like The O.C. and the Sopranos (I wasn’t able to find her on imdb for either show or The Stepford Wives where an online article has given her credit for being in). The case is about the murder and dismemberment of Laura Ackerson. She had a previous relationship with Grant and had 2 kids. They had a 2yr old and 3yr old at the time of her death. The two of them were in a heated custody battle over the boys which is the motive for her murder.

July 13 Grant lured his ex to his home where he strangled her to death. He then wrapped her dead body in a blanket and hid her. In the morning hours of July 14, he went to a local Walmart where he purchased a reciprocating saw, additional blades, industrial garbage bags, goggles, gloves, and other items. He then dismembered her body and put it in coolers and drove it down to Texas. Under the guise of taking his wife to visit her sister, Grant loaded the body of his ex into a trailer and brought it down to Texas with furniture they were bringing Amanda’s sister. Once in Texas he purchased acid and had Amanda dispose of the body.

Within a week of her disappearance the body had been found near the property of Amanda’s sister. While Amanda was in Texas she told her sister that she had hurt Laura and she was covering for Grant. She said that he had threatened her, her sister, and her 5 kids if she did not help him get rid of the body. He had purchased several bottles of acid in Texas before Amanda disposed of the body.

Both parties have already gone on trial. Grant’s trial was first. During his trial the jury heard a song written and performed by him called “Broomstick Rider” in which he says he had a price on her head and she told her attorney that he was going to kill her. He also says in the song, “I’m not the one to make you scream. I’m just the one to make you bleed. Don’t raise your arms, you can’t stop me. I’ll put my hands on your throat and squeeze”. A cellmate of Grant’s said that he was told by Grant himself that he lured Laura to the house and then him and Amanda subdued and strangled Laura. After his conviction, Grant gave a telephone interview and stated that Amanda accidentally killed Laura while trying to get away from her by elbowing her in the throat when Laura jumped her. He said that the dismemberment and disposal of her body was done to protect his wife. He states that his sister in law helped in the disposal of the body to help out her younger sister. He said he didn’t know immediately that Laura was dead and the reason he didn’t call authorities was because he knew that a black man would be immediately suspected of killing a white woman. Grant will spend the rest of his life in prison for his role in the death of his ex. Amanda was found guilty of second degree murder and will spend 13-16.5yrs in jail for her role. 

I will never understand why people choose to kill their ex’s when they’re fighting over the kids. Grant wanted to move to the Virgin Islands with his wife and children but because Laura was suing for custody and wouldn’t surrender her rights, there was no way he could do so while she was alive. But this case is disturbing in so many ways. If you believe what Grant says about how Laura died, then you believe it happened in front of his 3yr old son and then he got drunk and dismembered her body. If you believe the way the state does then he lured her there and killed her. Either way it ends with him cutting her up. The store clerks said there was nothing odd about him the night he came in to buy tools. He wasn’t acting strange or excited as if something had just happened. He acted like a normal guy looking for items. And since he had help finding one of the items and picking out the right one from an employee I think they would know if he was drunk or impaired which they said he was not.

For a man who loves his kids as much as he says, how could he put his children at risk? There are now 3 kids growing up without parents. And what is going to happen to them when they get older and they find out what happened? Do people really ever think about the kids or is that just what they tell themselves to make it easier to kill the person they once loved? When you have a child with someone that child is half you half them. If you love that child with all your heart then that means you love some part of their other parent as well. How can someone so callously kill something they love and then drive them halfway across the country and dispose of them in a swamp? People will never cease to amaze me and not in a good way.

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