Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Wednesday that Jay Patrick Hammersley received a 40-year prison sentence for the murder of his wife and burning her body.
The 46-year-old Katy man admitted to strangling and setting his wife on fire, Mara Vestal, in February 2019.
After he set her body afire, he collected the ashes and dumped them in a nearby dumpster. Unfortunately, no trace of her remains has ever been found.
Vestal and Hammersley have two young kids, and they are in the custody of their family members.
“She was taken from us at the age of 29. She didn’t make this choice. God didn’t make this choice. Jay did. Jay took her from us,” Vestal’s sister Kelly Goering said, as quoted by the Click2Houston News.
Earlier in 2019, in an exclusive jailhouse interview with ABC13 Eyewitness News, Hammersley said, “I wish it never happened.”
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Hammersley claimed Vestal was abusing him
He mentioned his wife had abused him for many years and confessed to killing her in self-defense.
ABC13 also reported that Hammersley claimed that he and his wife argued at a strip club. However, he said that his wife began acting erratically and violently towards him as soon as they got into the car.
The beating, Hammersley claimed, carried on once they returned to their Katy home, where he said he went unconscious.
Families grew suspicious when the victim stopped responding to texts and couldn’t be reached on the phone for days after the murder.
Ogg believes the entire bloody scene illustrates how quickly domestic violence can turn fatal.
“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. This was a horrific crime,” Ogg stated, as quoted by the ABC13.
Asst. District Attorney Stephany Abner, who led the prosecution, expressed gratitude to the family, witnesses, and investigators for helping to piece together what happened.