Bitter Remains: A Custody Battle, A Gruesome Crime, and the Mother Who Paid the Ultimate Price

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9780425278482: Bitter Remains: A Custody Battle, A Gruesome Crime, and the Mother Who Paid the Ultimate Price

The bestselling true crime author of Under Cover of the Night recounts Laura Ackerson’s disappearance and murder in North Carolina, the discovery of her remains in Texas, and the aftermath...
 
On July 13, 2011, Laura Jean Ackerson of Kinston, North Carolina, went to pick up her two toddler sons. It would be the last time she was seen alive...
 
Two weeks later, detectives searching for the missing mother made a gruesome discovery on the shores of Oyster Creek near Richmond, Texas—the dismembered body parts of a young woman whom they were able to identify as Laura Ackerson.
 
Laura’s ex, Grant Hayes—the  father of her two sons—and his wife, Amanda, the mother of his newborn daughter, both pointed the finger at each other as the one guilty of murdering Laura, cutting up her body, and then transporting and disposing of the remains.
 
This is the haunting true crime story of a devoted mother, a disturbed couple, and how these horrific events came to pass...
 
INCLUDES PHOTOS

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Diane Fanning is the Edgar® Award–nominated, national bestselling author of fourteen true crime books, including Under Cover of the Night, as well as the Lucinda Pierce Mysteries, and a World War II mystery, Scandal in the Secret City.
 
She has appeared on numerous network and cable news shows and radio stations across the United States and Canada, including TODAY, 48 Hours, 20/20, Forensic Files, Snapped, bio., Investigation Discovery, E!, and the BBC.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Praise for Diane Fanning

Berkley titles by Diane Fanning

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Notable People

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

CHAPTER THIRTY

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

CHAPTER FORTY

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

CHAPTER FIFTY

CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

CHAPTER FIFTY-TWO

Afterword

Photographs

NOTABLE PEOPLE

THE VICTIM

LAURA JEAN ACKERSON—Twenty-seven-year old entrepreneur, graphic artist and mother of two, aka Laura Hayes

THE ACCUSED

GRANT HAYES III—Musician, artist and father of Grant, Gentle and Lily Hayes. Husband of Amanda Hayes, aka Grant Haze

AMANDA HAYES—Actress, artist, mother of Sha Elmer and Lily Hayes and wife of Grant Hayes, aka Amanda Tucker, Amanda Smith, Amanda Haze

FRIENDS AND FAMILY

RETHA FAYE RYAN ABERNATHY—Mother of Amanda Hayes

JASON ACKERSON—Older half brother of Laura Jean Ackerson

PATRICIA BARAKAT—Inmate in the Wake County facility who befriended Amanda Hayes when she was incarcerated awaiting trial

DALTON BERRY—Son of Karen Berry and nephew of Amanda Hayes

KAREN BERRY—Older half sister of Amanda Hayes, lives in Texas

SHELTON BERRY—Son of Karen Berry and nephew of Amanda Hayes

SHA ELMER—Daughter of Amanda Hayes and Scott Elmer, aka Sha Guddat

GENTLE HAYES—Youngest son of Grant Hayes III and Laura Ackerson

GRANT HAYES II—Father of Grant and Grantina Hayes, husband of Patsy Hayes

GRANT HAYES IV—Oldest son of Grant Hayes III and Laura Ackerson, aka little Grant

GRANTINA HAYES—Sister of Grant Hayes III, aka Tina

LILLIAN ANN LOVE HAYES—Daughter of Grant Hayes III and Amanda Hayes, aka Lily

PATSY HAYES—Mother of Grant Hayes III, wife of Grant Hayes II

LAUREN HARRIS—Friend of Grant Hayes III and manager of the Monkey Joe’s in Raleigh, North Carolina

JOSEPH “JOSE” HARDIN—Music promoter on St. John and friend of Grant Hayes III

MATT GUDDAT—Boyfriend and later husband of Sha Elmer

MARK GIERTH—A friend of Grant Hayes on St. John

CHEVON MATHES—Laura Ackerson’s friend and business partner

BARBARA PATTY—Church friend and mentor of Laura Ackerson

KANDICE ROWLAND—Daughter of Karen Berry and niece of Amanda Hayes

OKSANA SAMARSKY—Artist and friend of Laura Ackerson

HEIDI SCHUMACHER—Laura Ackerson’s closest friend

NICKY SMITH—Third husband of Amanda Hayes

PABLO TRINIDAD—Confidant of Grant Hayes III in Wake County jail

OFFICIALS

DR. GINGER CALLOWAY—Court-appointed psychologist who provided the psychological evaluation report about Laura Ackerson and Grant Hayes III in their custody fight

OFFICER KEVIN CROCKER—Policeman with the Raleigh Police Department in Raleigh, North Carolina

WILL DURHAM—One of two attorneys representing Grant Hayes III at trial

DETECTIVE JERRY FAULK—Raleigh Police Department’s lead investigator in the Laura Ackerson case

AGENT MICHAEL GALLOWAY—Forensic investigator with the Raleigh/Wake City-County Bureau of Identification

JOHNNY GASKINS—Amanda Hayes’s lead attorney

DETECTIVE DEXTER GILL—Investigator with the Raleigh Police Department

DETECTIVE JAMES GWARTNEY—Kinston, North Carolina, police department investigator who was the first to respond to Chevon Mathes’s report of Laura Ackerson’s disappearance

SERGEANT BRIAN HALL—Investigator with the Raleigh Police Department

BECKY HOLT—Assistant district attorney in Wake County, North Carolina

COURTNEY LAST—Computer forensics analyst with the Raleigh Police Department

DETECTIVE SERGEANT ROBERT LATOUR—Raleigh, North Carolina, homicide detective

DR. NOBBY MAMBO—Deputy chief medical examiner with the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office in Galveston, Texas

DETECTIVE DAVID MOORE—Investigator with the Raleigh Police Department

DETECTIVE ZEKE MORSE—Investigator with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office in Fort Bend, Texas

KIM ORESKOVICH—Crime scene investigator with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office in Fort Bend, Texas

DETECTIVE THOMAS OUELLETTE—Investigator with the Raleigh Police Department

MEL PALMER—Investigator working for attorney Johnny Gaskins

DETECTIVE STEVE PREVITALI—Raleigh, North Carolina, homicide detective

DETECTIVE MARK QUAGLIARELLO—Investigator with the Raleigh Police Department

AGENT SHANNON QUICK—Senior agent with the Raleigh/Wake City-County Bureau of Identification

DR. DEBORAH RADISCH—Chief medical examiner for the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

JENNIFER REMY—Hair and fiber analyst for the North Carolina State Crime Lab

DETECTIVE AMANDA SALMON—Investigator with the Raleigh Police Department

JOHN SARGEANT—Laura Ackerson’s custody attorney

JUDGE DONALD STEPHENS—Presided over both Grant Hayes’s and Amanda Hayes’s trials in the superior court of Wake County, North Carolina

DR. PAUL STIMSON—Forensic odontologist in Houston, Texas

SERGEANT DANA SUGGS—Assisted with logistics of the investigation for Raleigh Police Department

AGENT TIMOTHY SUGGS—Forensic chemist with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation

DETECTIVE BRAD WICHARD—Investigator with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office

BOZ ZELLINGER—Assistant district attorney in Wake County, North Carolina

CHAPTER ONE

OYSTER Creek leaped to the earth’s surface in Fort Bend County, Texas, just north of the historic town of Richmond, about a half hour southwest of downtown Houston. Paralleling the Brazos River, it meandered through lush, semitropical countryside on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the 4300 block of Skinner Lane, unruly brush and tall grasses crowded around as if trying to hide the creek from strangers’ eyes. At one spot, a football field–size patch of lily pads consumed its whole width. Oyster shells littered its banks, hobby fishermen harvested its bounty and alligators patrolled its length for prey.

In July 2011, in the Pecan Grove community, another deadly creature desecrated its waters.

On Sunday afternoon, July 24, 2011, detectives searching for a missing North Carolina woman made a gruesome discovery tangled up in the weeds growing by the edge of the creek: a piece of armless female torso, severed at the neck and just above the hip area. By four o’clock, they’d found the rest of the torso. They strongly suspected that they’d found the body of the woman whom they were seeking, but without a head or hands, identification would depend on the slow, methodical process of DNA testing.

The next morning, just after nine, dive experts from the Richmond Fire Department and the Houston Police Department arrived at the scene. The near-100-degree sun beat down on their heads and stabbed into their backs with the single-minded intensity of a carrion crow. Humidity soared over 90 percent, adding to the oppressive atmosphere. Even the temperature of the water was 89 degrees. The smell of decomposition filled their lungs as they stood on the bank assessing the situation to help them define their target area.

Two divers, Brian Davis and Mark Thorsen of the Houston Police Department, plunged into the hot, dark, murky creek. They started their search at the boat secured to the bank. The tender stood still, holding a line connected to a diver, who traveled out in 180-degree arcs. Each time the man in the water completed a run, the man on the bank fed out more line, which slightly extended the distance from the bank and allowed the diver to traverse a wider semicircle. When searching for something large—like a car—the line feeds out fast; but today, as they were hunting for body parts, the process was far more deliberate, methodical and slow. Visibility was nonexistent, forcing the divers to feel blindly with their hands in the black water and to depend as much on luck as on skill in their search for more body parts.

Since the detectives were aware that the missing woman had a tattoo on her foot, they focused first on finding that, since it could be an easy and quick identifier. Since the foot has less muscular tissue than other body parts, it would not float to the surface readily, so they performed an underwater scuba search for one hundred feet in every direction. Sinking to the bottom, the divers made snow angels in the mud, seeking foreign objects on the riverbed—all to no avail.

The lily pads were a major nuisance, covering 50 to 60 percent of the surface of the designated search area. It was impossible to take a boat through them, and every time the divers pushed them out of the way, the current pushed them back. It was a constant struggle.

Noticing a spot of sheen on the surface of the water, an indicator of decomposition, divers Davis and Thorsen scooped up a sample and returned to shore. Cadaver-dog handlers presented it to their canines, who hit on the scent, indicating the presence of human remains and sending the divers back to that spot to continue their task. Near the area of the sheen, the smell of decomposition was strong. Searching on the surface, Davis spotted a suspicious object tangled among the roots of the lily pads. Pulling it upward, he saw a smooth, hairless bone in the middle of a dark mass. At first he thought he’d found a femur bone, and he called Thorsen over to help with the recovery. However, when they rolled it over, a face was revealed, and Davis realized what he had seen was actually the back of a skull. The water had held the skin and muscle in place, but when they pulled the head to the surface, it started sliding off the bone.

The two men placed a ribbon on the surface where they found the skull and made measurements of its location from two stationary objects. After shooting photos of the area of their find, they wrapped the head in a sheet and carried it to the bank.

The smell of decomposition was still strong at the spot of sheen, prompting the two divers to return to the water and continue searching. Fifteen to twenty feet deeper into the mass of lilies, they found a portion of a leg. Both of the parts they located that day were on the outer edges of the hot zone. Altogether, over two days, 60 percent of a body had been recovered and delivered to the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office.

On Tuesday, the dive team returned, expanding the target area farther but finding nothing more. Nonetheless, they had all that was needed to make identification. The detectives had found the missing woman from Kinston, North Carolina, nearly thirteen hundred miles away, in Oyster Creek in Texas: twenty-seven-year-old businesswoman and mother of two Laura Jean Ackerson.

CHAPTER TWO

LAURA Jean Ackerson was born on April 30, 1984, to Rodger and Brenda Ackerson in Hastings, Michigan, the only city in rural Barry County in the southwest corner of the state. There were six other children in the family, including her father’s son, Jason, who was three years older than Laura.

When Laura was a toddler, Rodger and Brenda separated. The battle of unsubstantiated allegations and contentious finger-pointing that lead to the divorce inflicted emotional scars on everyone, fracturing family relationships and leaving the children with conflicting loyalties. In Laura, the long-term emotional damage was apparent even after she reached adulthood.

In 1996, Laura and her mother moved to Iowa. Laura attended Lynnville-Sully High School in the tiny town of Sully and graduated in 2003 (a year later than she should have, due to the many disruptions in her home life).

Her half brother, Jason, left Michigan for North Carolina when he turned twenty-two, though he and Laura continued to keep in touch by phone a couple of times a month. Not long after Jason got a place in Youngsville, a half-hour drive northeast of Raleigh, Laura headed south to join him. Dead-end jobs, worse relationship choices, and frustrations with her home life had left Laura yearning for a new start. Although Youngsville was located in the prosperous and thriving Research Triangle area of North Carolina, it was still a small, rural town with a population under twelve hundred. It certainly wasn’t a hotbed of employment opportunities, nor was it full of the entertainments and activities a twenty-year-old woman would crave. Laura lived there with her brother for six months before setting out for the brighter life of the far more cosmopolitan city of Raleigh to find a job and a place of her own.

In 2004, Laura started working for an Applebee’s restaurant in Raleigh. She had the right stuff to be a good waitress: a cheerful, perky personality and girl-next-door good looks with an engaging smile and shoulder-length brown hair. There she met coworker Heidi Schumacher, a bright young woman with an equally sweet smile and longer hair that she sometimes wore up. The two women hit it off right away. After a short while, they both moved on to new jobs, initially together at the Front Row Sports Bar, though Heidi soon moved on to pursue an insurance career.

Laura had started taking online classes at Kirkwood Community College while living with her brother, and after earning her associate of arts degree from Kirkwood in 2005, she thought about a career in real estate, and took a seventy-five-hour prelicensing course at JY Monk Real Estate School that same year. Her natural talents and interests were stimulated, however, by two classes she took at the community college, one in graphic design and the other in marketing. She decided to focus on developing her graphic-arts skills and obtaining the necessary marketing acumen needed to start her own business. In her spare time, by using the Internet, the library and networking, Laura built on her academic introduction, absorbing all the knowledge she could to pave the path for her future. And to pay the bills in the meantime, she also worked for Bassett Furniture Direct in Raleigh doing retail sales and helping customers with decorating solutions.

Even though they were on different trajectories, the two friends continued to stay in contact through regular e-mail, live chat and phone calls along with occasional face-to-face m...

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Book Description Softcover. Book Condition: New. The bestselling author of Under Cover of the Night recounts Laura Ackerson’s disappearance and murder in North Carolina, the discovery of her remains in Texas, and the aftermath On July 13, 2011, Laura Jean Ackerson of Kinston, North Carolina, went to pick up her two toddler sons. It would be the last time she was seen alive.Two weeks later, detectives searching for the missing mother made a gruesome discovery on the shores of Oyster Creek near Richmond, Texas—the dismembered body parts of a young woman whom they were able to identify as Laura Ackerson.Laura’s ex, Grant Hayes—the father of her two sons—and his wife, Amanda, the mother of his newborn daughter, both pointed the finger at each other as the one guilty of murdering Laura, cutting up her body, and then transporting and disposing of the remains.This is the hauntingly true story of a devoted mother, a disturbed couple, and how these horrific events came to pass.INCLUDES PHOTOS. Bookseller Inventory # 5366228

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