RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A judge has decided to try a couple together for the alleged killing of a Kinston mother.

Grant Ruffin Hayes, and his wife, Amanda Perry Hayes, are charged with murder in connection with Laura Ackerson's death.

Ackerson's remains were found in Oyster Creek near Skinner Lane in Richmond, Texas July 2011. Identification was made through dental records days later. The 27-year-old was reported missing on July 18.

Texas deputies said they believed Ackerson was killed in North Carolina, and then dismembered, before her body was taken to Texas in coolers. The creek where the remains were found is near Amanda Hayes's sister's home.

Ackerson and Hayes had been involved in a custody battle over their children for more than a year. Hayes was granted primary custody in 2010.

During a 2011 court hearing, an assistant district attorney told a judge that Hayes wanted Ackerson out of his life.

Estranged family members of Ackerson have said they wished they had stepped in sooner.

"Very controlling and very manipulative," Ackerson's brother Jason Ackerson told WTVD in a previous interview. "It was hard to contact her without her getting in fear of her life from her ex-boyfriend. And we should have taken the threats more seriously."

The murder trial is scheduled for May 20.