But prosecutors said Hayes wore a "Sonny and Cher" style man's wig and fake mustache when she walked up and shot Heather Strube, 26, point blank in the head at the Target parking lot on Scenic Highway North in Snellville. Hayes allegedly wanted to avoid being recognized by onlookers as well as her grandson, who was then 18 months old. He was buckled into his car seat when his mother was slain outside her vehicle.
Strube's parents, Mary and Buddy Allen, got custody of her son following the slaying. The couple said they have lived each day in fear that Hayes might come after them, too. Hayes' conviction brought tears of relief to their eyes. A relative mouthed to Mary Allen "no more fear," after the verdict was read, and she nodded in response.
"I believe they convicted the right person," Mary Allen said later, outside the courthouse. "I will live my life cautiously. But we will live life, because my grandson deserves a full life."
Hayes' mother, Lois Hand,told reporters her daughter was a wonderful, loving person and that "a grave injustice was done today."
Strube's slaying was one of only four homicides in the history of Snellville. Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead and three detectives who worked on the case were seated in the packed courtroom when the verdict came down. The defense team had contended that police investigators jumped to conclusions when they charged Hayes, but Whitehead disputed that.
"We let the evidence take us to where we needed to go, to the person who committed that crime," Whitehead said.
A jury of eight men and two women spent two and a half days deliberating, jangling the nerves of prosecutors and defense attorneys alike. Assistant District Attorney, Christa Kirk, who prosecuted the case along with Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Dan Mayfield, said "we're very happy the jury took the time to look at it all."
"They did their job," Kirk said.