By Diane Fanning
ON JULY 13, 2011, Laura Jean Ackerson of Kinston went to pick up her two toddler sons. It would be the last time she was seen alive. This is how Edgar Award nominated author Diane Fanning begins her true crime story which is set mostly in our state. The title of the book is descriptive as to how this story unfolds and how gruesome was the crime scene. From North Carolina to Texas a body was dismembered and disposed of with callous disregard of the ramifications.
Many readers from our area will remember the trial that captured much attention in our state a few years ago. This is a complicated tale about child custody, antagonistic personal relationships, and a battle of wills. Grant Hayes and Laura Ackerson were married in Raleigh in 2007. Grant claimed he never signed the marriage document. This is just one of the strange touches of this story. Later Grant marries Amanda who helps care for the two children of Laura’s as they spend time with both parents. It was at their apartment where Laura lost her life. A bleach stain on the carpet becomes evidence of a crime scene.
Diane Fanning’s research is detailed and she leaves out nothing in telling how it all led to murder and two intertwined trials. She offers the terrible details of a body found in a Texas creek. The book bogs down some as she recounts the murder trials of Grant and Amanda Hayes, 47 prosecution witnesses in Grant’s trial. The author analyzes the inner workings of the court system and the challenges the defense had as each defendant claimed the other actually killed Laura. There is no doubt that Grant Hayes went to a Walmart in Raleigh and bought a reciprocating saw, large trash bags, goggles and gloves at 2am on July 14, 2011.
At the trial the state presented a song written by Grant Hayes titled, Broomstick Rider. These words foretold events to come: “My babies’ momma, don’t talk to me. Don’t want your drama. I got two kids by you. I can’t take any more from you. I put a price on your head. You must have told your attorney I got intentions of killing you.” But the question is raised – did Grant or Amanda actually kill Laura? Amanda told her sister in Texas that she hurt Laura real bad.
“Bitter Remains” is a haunting tale of how conflict can escalate to horrible ends. Now in paperback, this book will become a part of a selection of books about North Carolina true crimes that have shocked us over the years. Questions still remain as to the drastic details of that murder in 2011. Questions also remain as to why any domestic dispute leads to such a terrible ending. In her afterword, the author asks readers to keep the two little sons of Laura Ackerson in your thoughts.
Emerald Isle Books