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Katy husband sentenced to 40 years for strangling wife, burning body. Remains never found.

October 20, 2021

Katy husband sentenced to 40 years for strangling wife, burning body. Remains never found.

A Katy man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for murdering his wife and burning her body, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Wednesday 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 and burning her body in February 2019.

After he burned her body, he bagged up the ashes and 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.

The murder, and haphazard attempt to cover it up afterward, highlight how quickly domestic violence can turn fatal, 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.”