Man allegedly confesses to killing wife and cremating her body with charcoal

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The man accused of strangling his wife and then burning her body was already facing accusations that he stole thousands of dollars from his blind former business partner.

Jay Hammersley spent his 44th birthday in court Thursday listening to the graphic allegations against him.

"He placed her body in the shed out back for two days, before buying over 100 pounds of charcoal and attempting to cremate her body. The defendant claimed he did a good job and reduced her to ashes," a prosecutor told the court.

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According to court records, Hammersley admitted to strangling his wife, Mara Vestal, at their Katy home on Feb. 16 after a fight that started at a strip club.

He reported her missing on March 19 and a friend, to whom Hammersley allegedly confessed, recently turned him in.

Court records say he told Harris County Sheriff's Office investigators he moved her remains from their backyard shed to a dumpster at his current workplace in Cypress, where deputies spent a couple of hours searching. Her remains have not been found.

"I would never imagine Jay doing any type of alleged crime like this," William "David" Brooks told ABC13 Eyewitness News. "I can't see how anyone can do that to another living being."

Hammersley helped Brooks found their Katy automotive performance shop in 2014. A year ago, Brooks severed all ties.

"Jay has not been a part of this organization for over a year," he said.

In July 2018, Brooks filed a lawsuit against Hammersley claiming he stole more than $300,000 from their business, while Brooks was recovering from a car accident that left him completely blind.

Brooks has changed the business name to HP Motorsports LLC and repaid customers and debts, he says. His thoughts are with Vestal and her family, especially the couple's children.

"The youngest one, she's just a baby. What are these poor kids going to do now?" he said.

Hammersley is charged with murder and tampering with evidence. His total bond is $105,000. He remains in jail and is expected in court on Friday.

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