A woman disguised herself as a man and shot her son’s ex-wife to death at point blank range – even as the younger woman cried for help in front of her 2-year-old son in a Snellville Target parking lot.
Still, despite her public actions, Mrs. Joanna Hayes contends there was not enough evidence to convict her.
But on Monday the Supreme Court of Georgia disagreed and unanimously upheld her conviction and life sentence for the 2009 murder of Ms. Heather Strube.
The following details were obtained from the high court's written opinion:
After five years of marriage and the birth of a son, Mrs. Strube divorced her husband, Steven and the two began sharing custody of Carson.
It was customary for Carson to be transferred from one parent to another in a certain shopping center parking lot in Gwinnett County.
Shortly before 6 p.m. on April 26, 2009, Mr. Strube dropped off his son with his ex-wife.
Watching and waiting nearby, separated by other vehicles from Mrs. Strube’s vehicle, was a person wearing a dark wig and false mustache.
“Heather placed Carson in a child’s car seat in the rear of her vehicle, Strube drove away, and the person wearing the wig and mustache walked briskly to Heather,” according to the written opinion.
Surprised, Mrs. Strube stared at the person wearing the wig and mustache. They spoke briefly, and then Mrs. Strube, backing away, attempted to open the driver’s door of her vehicle.
But the other person closed it.
“Heather uttered ‘help’ to a passing motorist, and the person wearing the wig and mustache produced a handgun from a black messenger bag, quickly put the weapon to Heather’s forehead, fatally shot her, and walked into a nearby store," the opinion stated.
Several eyewitnesses described the shooter as a man, but one, working with a sketch artist, realized that the killer was, in fact, a woman.
Mrs. Hayes told the investigator that her former daughter-in-law was not a good parent and that she had inherited poor parenting skills from her own mother.
She told them the younger woman wasn’t good enough to raise her grandchild.
While Mrs. Hayes was being held in the Gwinnett County jail, she told a fellow prisoner that her son’s ex-wife had no parenting skills and it made her “sick” to think of her former daughter-in-law with Carson.
She also told the inmate she had killed her ex-daughter-in-law by shooting her in “the front of her head.”
Mrs. Hayes told another inmate that the shooting was the reason she was in jail and that killing the woman was the only way to keep her family together.
In May 2011, a jury convicted Mrs. Hayes of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during a felony, and she was sentenced to life plus five years in prison.
In her appeal to the state Supreme Court, Mrs. Hayes argued that the witnesses for the state were influenced by news coverage; that the images captured by surveillance cameras were unclear and that the fellow prisoners who testified against her were unreliable.
But the high court disagreed.
“It is for the jury to resolve conflicts in the evidence and questions of witness credibility, not this Court," the opinion stated.
"The issues Hayes raises go to the weight of the evidence, and, properly viewed, the evidence authorized the jury to find Hayes guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes for which she was convicted. Judgments affirmed.”
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