Katy husband tearfully claims self-defense in wife's murder

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A man accused of strangling his wife and then burning her body told ABC13 Eyewitness News in an exclusive jailhouse interview, "I wish it never happened."

Stefania Okolie spoke with Jay Hammersley from jail downtown, where he is being held in isolation, unable to be around other inmates. He says it's because of the nature of his case.

Tuesday, Hammersley went through details of what he called years of abuse at the hands of his wife Mara Vestal.

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He was hesitant to speak at first, but once he got comfortable, he started to spill his account of what happened that night, breaking down in tears.

Court documents describe Vestal's brutal murder on Feb. 16, but Hammersley said he acted in self-defense.

The start of his statement is consistent with what we heard during his first appearance in court.

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 violently, erratically and continuously beating him.

Okolie asked him why he didn't call police, and that is when he started to sob even harder.

Hammersley said the beating continued once inside their Katy home, and that he blacked out.

He would not go into further details about what happened to her body, but did tell ABC13 over and over that he acted in self-defense.

According to court documents, he reported his wife missing on March 19.

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

Okolie asked Hammersley if he loves his wife. He said, "Yes." He also said he feels like this isn't real and still feels like she will pop up one day.

Investigators have yet to find her remains.

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