A Katy, Texas man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for murdering his wife and burning her body, 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, after a night out at a strip club and burning her body in February 2019.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Hammersley placed Vestal’s body in a ‘shed at the back of the home for two days before buying 100 pounds of charcoal’ and cremating her.
.. “It’s off the charts disturbing.” Investigators say Katy area murder happened after a strip club visit. Mara Vestal’s body was allegedly burned w/100 pounds of charcoal by her husband, Jay Hammersley. Hear from neighbors on @KHOU at 5:00 & 6:00 #khou11 #htownrush pic.twitter.com/roffhu1h0K
— Jason Miles (@JMilesKHOU) April 4, 2019
After he burned her body, he bagged up the ashes and placed them on the curb. When garbage crews didn’t take the bags, he threw them in a dumpster at work. Her remains have never been recovered.
She was a mother of two young children, who are now being raised by family members.
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.
Hammersley later confessed to detectives – telling them he “did a good job” of getting rid of the body.
The murder, and haphazard attempt to cover it up afterward, highlight how quickly domestic violence can turn fatal, Harris County District Attorney Kim 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.”
Assistant District Attorney Stephany Abner, who prosecuted the case, thanked the family, witness, and the detectives for piecing together what happened and bringing Hammersley to justice.
“This is a situation where they got into an argument one night and he strangled her,” 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.”