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Target slaying testimony: Dirty diapers fueled loathing

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

LAWRENCEVILLE -- In an early interview with police, Joanna Hayes admitted to an investigator she disliked her daughter-in-law, Heather Strube, because her mothering habits were subpar, according to testimony.

Snellville police Cpl. Dean Boone interrogated Hayes in the kitchen of a Lilburn home she owned three days after Strube's fatal shooting on April 26, 2009. Hayes openly discussed her distaste for Strube, saying she often handed her infant son over to her estranged husband with dirty diapers and dirt under his fingernails, Boone testified.

"(Hayes) didn't think Heather was a good parent morally and wasn't good enough to raise her grandchild," Boone testified in the second week of Hayes' murder trial.

Those statements weren't enough to arrest Hayes, and police kept building a case against her for nearly six months before lodging murder and related charges.

Prosecutors believe Hayes, 47, disguised herself as a man with a wig and mustache about 6 p.m. that April afternoon and fired a single, fatal shot to Strube's head, with her son only a couple of feet away.

Boone testified that Hayes told police she knew her son and Strube customarily used a Target lot in Snellville as a meeting point. Pressed by defense attorney Bruce Morriss, Boone conceded that a dozen people were privy to that information.

A Conyers floral designer, 25-year-old Strube and her husband, Steven, were in the final stages of a divorce, following their marriage in May 2004.

Boone also testified that days after the killing, Snellville police got a call from a "concerned citizen" who'd been at Crestwood Suites behind Target the weekend Strube was killed. The man told police he noticed someone wearing "a Sonny-and-Cher-type wig and mustache" and taking pictures of the Target area the day of Strube's death and the day prior.

Investigators drove the man, Darryl Myers, to Hayes' home in Lilburn, where he positively identified her white, 1991 Ford F-150 truck as the one he'd seen near Target, Boone said.

"He even went so far as to say he recognized the side moldings on the truck," Boone testified.

In the April 29 interview, Boone said Hayes told investigators she'd gone to Home Depot with her son and left Lilburn about 5 p.m. the day of Strube's murder, headed for her residence in Luthersville. She told police she pulled off Interstate 85 at Exit 41, to buy a Frosty at Wendy's and go in a post office, Boone said.

As proof, Boone said Hayes directed police to a Wendy's receipt in her truck. Snellville police impounded the vehicle and turned it over for a forensic examination without even cracking the doors, Boone testified.

Earlier, a Georgia Bureau of Investigations analyst testified that traces of gunshot residue were found in the truck -- a single particle on the steering wheel and two on the dashboard. Quizzed by Morriss, the defense attorney, the analyst said those particles could also have come from non-weapons, such as car batteries and nail guns.

The trial is expected to last through this week and into next. Hayes faces life in prison.