Mother-in-law discussed 'perfect murder' before Target shooting

A former friend recounted on the witness stand Friday how Joanna Hayes, on trial in the fatal shooting of her daughter-in-law, once described the way she would go about committing the perfect murder.

Paul Pinzino, 22, said the conversation took place while he and Hayes were delivering flowers on Valentine's Day 2008. The two were working at Hayes' daughter-in-law's floral design company.

"It was a little strange, yes. But we were just talking," Pinzino said, adding, "I didn't think anything about it."

The next time Pinzino thought of it was more than a year later, after Hayes' daughter-in-law, Heather Strube, was gunned down April 26, 2009.  Someone wearing a wig and fake mustache shot the young mother in front of her 18-month-old son in a Target parking lot in Snellville.

Strube had met her estranged husband, Steven Strube, there to exchange custody of their son. Steven Strube is not charged in the slaying. Witnesses saw him drive away before the shooter walked up.

According to Pinzino, Hayes said she would act alone. However, she would give a credit card to an unwitting accomplice like her husband or son and ask them to buy something to establish her alibi.

Pinzino said Hayes told her she would use a handgun bought from a day laborer. Hayes worked in construction and knew it was common to find firearms on work sites. She had already purchased three guns that way, Pinzino said.

Hayes also reportedly said she would use power tools to grind down or melt the weapon before tossing it into a lake.

Hayes and her husband owned three vehicles: a lime green minivan, a silver Dodge truck with a dented tailgate and a white Ford F-150 pickup truck. Hayes ruled out the minivan and dented Dodge because they were too easily noticeable, Pinzino said.

Some of Hayes' made-up plot sounded familiar to investigators. A witnesses saw a white Ford F-150 pickup truck in a motel parking lot behind the Target on the day Strube was killed.

The gun used in the slaying was never found.

Defense attorney Bruce Morriss pointed out the conversation happened more than a year before the slaying, when Hayes and her daughter-in-law were getting along. He also asked if Hayes said she would use the Ford truck. Pinzino said she only  talked of using "something common that wouldn't stand out."

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