u can’t make this up

GWINNETT COUNTY NEWS 9:51 p.m. Thursday, October 22, 2009

Child of woman killed at Target in custody battle

Little Carson Luke Strube is now thriving in the care of his maternal grandparents. But his other grandmother, Joanna Renea Hayes, was charged this week with killing his mother, her daughter-in-law.

Moments after Steven Strube left the Target parking lot on Scene Highway, his estranged wife was approached by a person wearing a black wig that looked like a mop. As Heather tried to get into her SUV, the disguised person shot her. Investigators found Carson holding his mother’s cellphone. His mom turned 25 years old just six days before her death on April 26.

Carson, who turned 2-years-old last month, has been in the care of Heather’s parents — Buddy and Mary Allen.

Hayes is now behind bars following her murder indictment on Wednesday. Police believe she is the one who donned a disguise and killed her daughter-in-law.

Hayes in jail facing charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Carson’s father, Steven Strube, is also in jail, following a probation violation from a 2008 conviction.

“They feel a bit safer knowing that Joanna Hayes and Steven Strube are behind bars,” said Phyllis Miller, the Allens’ attorney.

The couple remains focused on the care of their grandson, who is an active, happy child, Miller said.

“He’s obviously aware that his mother is gone,” Miller says. But it’s too soon to know how losing his mother at such a young age will affect him, Miller said.

Mary Allen relies on a motto, her attorney says. “We’ve got to focus on the living.”

The Allens are fighting for permanent custody of their grandchild. They were awarded temporary custody in August.

Without a doubt, the Allens want justice for their daughter’s killing. But just as important to the Rockdale County couple is that they be granted permanent custody of their grandson. A custody battle continues as Steven Strube still wants his son back  once he is out of jail.

The Allens are prepared to fight, citing Steven Strube’s criminal history and his behavior following Heather Strube’s death. Though the couple’s final divorce settlement was waiting on a judge’s signature in April, Steven Strube had already agreed to give custody of Carson to Heather. So far, Steven Strube doesn’t face any charges in Heather’s killing.

“Even if Heather had not been murdered, given what my clients know about Steven Strube, we would have been fighting for custody of this child,” Miller said.

A final custody hearing has not yet been set, Miller said.

Hayes, who remains in the Gwinnett County jail without bond, may not have a probable cause hearing, Miller said. That’s because a Gwinnett County Superior Court issued the warrant for arrest following a grand jury’s indictment on Wednesday.

When Hayes does have a court appearance, the Allens plan to be there, Miller said

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