The Gruesome Murder of Laura Ackerson

Laura Ackerson (27) had been missing for over 10 days when her remains were found in an alligator infested creek in Texas, on July 24, 2011. She had been dismembered and authoriries were able to recover her head, torso, and part of her limbs. Her cause of death couldn’t be determined with certainty because of the condition of the remains, but the autopsy showed signs of asphyxiation and a possible stab wound to the neck.

Laura had been in the middle of a nasty custody battle with her ex, Grant Hayes III, over their two kids, who were 3 and 2 years old at the time. Grant was an aspiring musician, drug addict and had a tendency to use and manipulate women. During his relationship with Laura, he was abusive and openly cheated on her with other women, among them Amanda Smith. The extent of Grant’s deceit was so, that Laura believed they were married (they had a ceremony and all) and she only found out he’d never signed the marriage license when he sent her a picture of his wedding to Amanda, ending the relationship between them for good.

Grant, who had temporary custody of the children during week days, and Amanda were going through financial trouble because he’d spent most of her inheritance recklessly. On top of that, Amanda became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl a month before Laura went missing. The upcoming court date didn’t look good for him, especially after the appointed psychologist had reported he exhibited “illogical disturbed thinking” and seemed to want to erase Laura from their kids’ lives. On the other hand, Laura was trying to improve her life, starting a business and doing everything the court requested of her.

On July 13, 2011, the last day Laura was seen, she was lured to Grant’s apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, with the pretense that they were going to let her have the kids for a few days. What happened after, we can’t be sure, since Amanda and Grant had different versions, blaming each other.

According to Amanda, Grant said that Laura had tripped and hurt herself and he asked her to take the kids out so he wouldn’t see their mom like that. He later confessed to her he’d killed her and forced her to help him dispose of her body by threatening their daughter. They traveled to Texas, where Amanda’s sister lived, and threw her dismembered body in the creek. The sister, however, testified in court that during the visit Amanda told her she had “hurt Laura bad” and that she was dead.

Grant played the race card as much as he could and then said Laura had signed a contract in which she agreed to give him full custody of the children in exchange for 25,000 dollars. Indeed a document with two different handwritings stating as much was found in his apartment, and although an expert said part of it had been written by Laura, all the people who knew her said it was impossible she’d give up her kids, especially considering all the changes she was making to get custody and the fact that Grant was broke. According to Grant, Amanda got angry at the agreement and accidentally killed Laura, and he just helped her cover it up to protect her. He finished by saying that “Laura got herself killed”.

The couple was tried separatedly and given the amount of evidence against them, they were both found guilty. Grant of first degree murder, and he got a life sentence without parole, while Amanda will spend 13 to 16 years for second degree murder, as long as her conviction isn’t extended by some added charges that were filed last year. In 2014, these upstanding lovers divorced.

This tragic story is told in the book Bitter Remains, by Diane Fanning.

Cisneros’ book is named for an actual creek in Texas. The creek is most likely named for La Llorona, a southwest icon who also made an appearance in So Far From God. 

La Llorona is one of my favorite myths/stories. In fact, the third chapter of my dissertation is all about her! 

it’s beautiful out today
i wish you could take me upstate
to the little place you would tell me about
when you’d sense that I’d want to escape

texas is a land-locked state
it’s a little bit far away
from the water, from the home that I’ve wanted to make it
somehow, in the city, you make it there and you make it
anywhere, anywhere,
but i’ve been anywhere and it’s not what I want
I wanna be still with you

you keep your socks on in bed
keep our hearth warm
“see the trees’ shadows lie in black pools in the lawns”
you’re the breeze in my austin nights
you’re the breeze in my austin nights
you’re the breeze in my austin nights