KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
April 5, 2019
By Natalie Cook Clark
A Katy man has been arrested and charged with murdering his wife and attempting to burn her body at their home in the Sundown Glen subdivision off North Fry. He recently reported his wife missing and has a prior criminal history.
Hammersley and Vestal. Photo Credit: Facebook.
Husband Reported Wife Missing
Jay Patrick Hammersley, 44, reported his wife, Mara Vestal, 29, missing on March 19. He told investigators she left their home in the 20200 block of Golden Mesa Drive a few weeks prior, and that she had taken some belongings with her.
During questioning at the couple's home, Hammersley's story kept changing. Ultimately after a witness came forward, Hammersley did admit to murdering his wife and disposing of her body.
A Night Out Turns Deadly
According to authorities, on the night of February 16, the couple returned home from a strip club and started to argue. Hammersley told investigators that Vestal started hitting him before he strangled her on their bed. He then reached out to a friend to help him dispose of the body. His friend refused and urged him to contact police.
Cremated Body in Backyard Shed
Hammersley then purchased more than 100 pounds of charcoal and attempted to cremate her body in a shed on their property. He then disposed of her remains in a trash bag and left the bag on the curb.
"He definitely admitted putting remains in a trash bag and left it on the curb. But he also admitted they didn't pick it up, so he took it elsewhere," said Carvana Cloud, Assistant Harris County District Attorney and Chief of Family Criminal Law Division, in a press conference Thursday.
Hammersley claimed he took Vestal's remains to a dumpster near his work. Her remains have not been found.
Key Witness Comes Forward
According to the Harris County District Attorney's Office, a key witness contacted authorities. He is the same friend who Hammersley contacted asking for help with disposing Vestal's body.
"I'm glad the witness was brave enough to come forward," said Cloud.
Hammersley has a prior criminal record including charges of theft, forgery, and engaging in criminal activity. Hammersley could have been granted deferred adjudication had he successfully completed probation. According to police records, Hammersley did not complete his probation, and he lost his opportunity to have his convictions removed from his record. He was forced to pay $1,100 restitution for his forgery charge for writing a check to a Katy business with someone else's name on it.
While this is still an active investigation, Cloud said that they have not found any documented cases of family violence.
Professing Her Love
At this time, little is known about the victim, but her Facebook profile paints a picture of a hard working wife and mother who loved her husband. She is from La Plata, Missouri and was working at Due Diligence Law Associates. Vestal and Hammersley were married in 2014. Vestal professed her love for Hammersley in a 2017 Facebook post.
A Tragic Murder
“When you say disturbing, on a scale of one to 10, it’s off the charts,” said Cloud. "This was a horrific, very tragic, and very personal homicide," said Cloud. "It's an intensely personal crime."
Cloud told reporters that strangulation makes up about one third of felony family violence cases. "2,000 cases of strangulation were filed in Harris County last year," said Cloud.
Watch the Press Conference
DA's Office to File for No Bond
Hammersley is currently being held on a $105,000 bond in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Detention Facility. Cloud did state that their office will file a motion for no bond.