Katy husband sentenced to prison for killing his wife and burning her body

Jay Hammersley claimed it was self-defense when he got into a fatal fight with Mara Vestal after they came home from a strip club

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Katy husband tearfully claims self-defense in wife's murder
EXCLUSIVE: In a jailhouse interview, Jay Hammersley says he blacked out after a trip to a strip club ended in an argument with his wife that turned deadly.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Katy man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for murdering his wife and burning her body, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Wednesday after the woman's sisters gave victim-impact statements in open court.

"She was taken from us at the age of 29," said Kelly Goering, the victim's older sister. "She didn't make this choice. God didn't make this choice. Jay did. Jay took her from us."

Jay Patrick Hammersley, 46, pleaded guilty to murder earlier this month for strangling his wife, Mara Vestal, and burning her body in February 2019.

RELATED: Man confesses to killing wife and cremating her body with charcoal

Investigators say Jay Hammersley allegedly confessed to the murder, claiming he got into a fight with his wife after leaving a strip club.

Detectives said during their investigation, Hammersley admitted to strangling Vestal to death, putting her body in a shed, buying 100 pounds of coal, then burning her body and disposing of it.

After he burned her body, he bagged up the ashes and threw them in a dumpster at work. Her remains have never been recovered.

In April 2019, Hammersley told ABC13 Eyewitness News in an exclusive jailhouse interview, "I wish it never happened."

WATCH: See Stefania Okolie's report of that jailhouse interview in the video player above.

He claimed he suffered years of abuse at the hands of his wife. Breaking down in tears, Hammersley said he acted in self-defense on the night she died.

TOXIC RELATIONSHIP: Daughter of man accused of killing his wife speaks out about the night he 'snapped'

Too afraid to share her name, Hammersley's daughter says his arrest and charge are still a shock.

Hammersley said he and his wife were at a strip club and got into an argument. But he told ABC13 when they got in the car, his wife acted erratically and violently beat him. Hammersley said the beating continued once inside their Katy home, and that he blacked out.

When the victim stopped returning texts and could not be reached by phone in the days after the murder, family members became suspicious and called the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

The entire violent scene highlights how quickly domestic violence can turn fatal, Ogg said.

"We all have a responsibility to look for and recognize when someone is in danger and then try to help them, even if that means calling the police," Ogg said. "This was a horrific crime."

"This is a situation where they got into an argument one night and he strangled her," Assistant District Attorney Stephany Abner said. "Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation, domestic violence is rampant, and we hope that by holding offenders accountable, we can prevent this from happening to other victims."

Vestal was a mother of two young children, who are now being raised by family members.