Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Joanna Hayes listens as her attorney speaks Wednesday morning just before opening statements were given in the Target murder case involving her daughter-in-law.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Target shopper Alicia Hines was sitting in her car with her 1-year-old son when, roughly 100 feet away, she saw an "individual in disguise" fatally shoot Heather Strube in broad daylight, she testified Thursday.
Police later showed Hines a photo line-up that included murder suspect Joanna Hayes, the victim's mother-in-law, and five other women with similar characteristics.
Hines fingered Hayes, whose eyes "just kept calling my name," Hines testified in the trial's second day.
Pressed by defense attorney Bruce Morriss, Hines admitted that she "wasn't certain at all" that Hayes was the perpetrator, given the disguise.
Prosecutors believe Hayes, then 45, disguised herself as a man with a wig and mustache on the afternoon of April 26, 2009, and fired a single, fatal shot to Strube's head, with her infant son only a couple of feet away.
Police have said the motive was clear-cut: Hayes disagreed with the way her grandchild was being raised by Strube, a 25-year-old floral designer from Conyers. Strube and her husband, Steven, were in the final stages of a divorce, following their marriage in May 2004.
The couple had met for a custody swap at their customary place, a Target parking lot on Ga. Highway 124 in Snellville.
Hines, the witness, said the disguised person followed Strube around her Cadillac Escalade, kept her from opening the driver's door, then pulled a gun from a messenger bag and shot Strube, letting her body fall near the vehicle's rear tire. The shooter walked briskly toward Ronald Reagan Parkway as Hines flagged down another shopper to call police, she testified.
Hines recalled the shooter's get-up as "weird hair" and a "crooked moustache," khaki pants, tucked-in checkered shirt and black messenger bag. She referred to the shooter as "she."
Morriss has pointed to discrepancies in the size of the shooter that witnesses recall and his client. Hines described the "very lean" shooter as between 5 feet, 7 and 8 inches tall, about 150 pounds.
Jail records at the time of her October 2009 arrest list Hayes as 5 feet, 4 inches tall and 110 pounds.
A multi-agency investigation led to Hayes' arrest nearly six months after the killing. She'd long been considered a person of interest.
The trial is expected to last at least two weeks. Hayes faces life in prison.