Man accused of strangling wife, burning her body appears in court

By Phil Archer - Reporter, Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor, Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

KATY, Texas - The Katy man accused of strangling his wife and disposing of her body in his backyard had a brief appearance in court Monday.

Prosecutors said Jay Hammersley killed his wife, 29-year-old Mara Vestal, during an argument on Feb. 15 inside their home. 

Hammersley was given a $125,000 bond. The conditions of his bond are that he cannot communicate with any member of the family of Vestal; he cannot go anywhere near her place of employment or any school, child care facility or home of Vestal's family; cannot communicate with any witness; cannot leave the county; cannot possess firearms or weapons; cannot use alcohol or drugs; has to wear a GPS monitoring device, and has to remain at his house.

Investigators said that after her death Hammersley bought more than 100 pounds of charcoal and cremated his wife's body inside a shed in the backyard. 

Jay Hammersley & Maria Vestal (Photo: Facebook)

He then called a friend to ask for help covering up the crime, prosecutors said.

"The defendant then asked this witness to help get rid of the body. The witness said no and told him to call police," Carvana Cloud, assistant Harris County district attorney and chief of the Family Criminal Law Division, said.


A Katy man has been charged with murder and tampering with evidence in connection with the death of his wife.

According to investigators, Hammersley then tried to cover his tracks by filing a missing person report March 19 for Vestal.

Investigators said Hammersley, 44, confessed to the killing. Hammersley is charged with murder and tampering with a corpse.

VIDEO: DA's office gives update in wake of Jay Hammersley indictment

Vestal's cause of death was ruled as strangulation and blunt force. Her remains have not been found.

"It's very disturbing," Cloud said. "Strangulation is an intensely personal crime... Unfortunately, it is becoming, for homicide cases, the preferred manner and means of homicide."

Hammersley is due back in court on May 23.

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