Raleigh, N.C. — An old boyfriend of a Kinston woman whose remains were found in Texas said Wednesday that the two reconnected over email days before her death and that she had mentioned an ongoing custody battle with the father of her two young sons – ages 3 and 2.
The dismembered body of Laura Jean Ackerson, 27, who was reported missing on July 18, was found Sunday in a creek in Richmond, Texas, about 60 miles south of Houston.
Grant Ruffin Hayes, 32, the father of her children, is charged with murder in the case. His wife, Amanda Perry Hayes, 39, is also charged with murder.
James Harrison said by phone from his home in New York that he and Ackerson, who dated from 2005 to 2008 and ultimately parted on good terms, began exchanging messages on July 11 and that he could tell the custody dispute had taken a toll on her and had caused her a great deal of stress.
Court documents indicate that Grant Hayes had been awarded custody of the children at one point but that each party claimed the other was an unfit parent.
"She was involved in a very long court battle," Harrison said. "Clearly, the relationship had gone sour."
But he didn't want to invade her privacy by pressing her to talk about it too much, he said.
The two last talked via email on July 12, about her visiting him in New York.
Ackerson was last seen alive on July 13, and her car was found parked outside a north Raleigh apartment complex a week later.
Harrison said that he learned about her death over the Internet and is devastated.
"The manner in which it happened and the level of gruesome detail that went into Laura's disappearance just killed me," he said.
Investigators with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office in Richmond say they believe Ackerson was killed in Raleigh, dismembered and then transported in ice chests to Texas, where her remains were dumped in a creek about 100 yards from where Amanda Hayes' sister lives.
Raleigh police have declined to comment on the investigation or a possible motive, but family members and other friends said that Grant Hayes' relationship with Ackerson had been volatile.
Harrison said that, after he and Ackerson had broken up, he had thought Grant Hayes seemed to be a good match for her.
"I knew the type of person Laura was looking for, and he seemed to have all those traits and qualities, so I was actually really happy for them," Harrison said.
A public memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Grace Fellowship Church, 327 Academy Heights Road in Kinston.