HOUSTON, Texas -- The daughter of the man accused of strangling his wife and then burning her spoke exclusively with our sister station ABC13 Eyewitness News about the night her father "snapped" and how he feels about it.
Jay Hammersley remains behind bars, after being charged with the murder of his 29-year-old wife inside their home. He is charged with murder and tampering with a corpse in the February death of Mara Vestal.
Standing outside the Harris County Jail, Eyewitness News spoke exclusively with his adult daughter, moments after she saw her father in jail for the first time since his arrest.
Too afraid to share her name, she says his arrest and charge are still a shock.
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"You know, every single day I wake up and I think maybe it's not true, maybe it's not true," she said. "It took me actually having to hear his word to actually understand that it actually is, it did happen."
While she admits her father's actions are criminal, she says her father and stepmother had a toxic relationship.
"There's a lot of instances where she'd be drunk and she'd be throwing hands or whatever. There was a time where she spent five hours working on a birthday cake for my little sister and then threw it at him from across the house," she said.
"From what he's told me, it was like he'd just had enough and he just blacked out and something happened."
Investigators say it all happened after the pair visited a strip club the night of Feb. 16. Hammersley's daughter says Vestal started an argument inside the business.
"She was pissed off because she thought he was interested in a woman in there," she told ABC13.
And that argument she says continued for hours when they got home.
"She jumped on him and was trying to whack at him, punch him, stab into him, whatever she could get and he just lost it and grabbed her and choked her and he didn't realize how bad it was until she had urinated," she said.
Detectives say he confided in a friend the next day, asking for help to get rid of the body. Records show the friend told him to report the murder to police, but instead Hammersley allegedly bought 100 pounds of charcoal, burned her body to ash and got rid of the remains in a dumpster at work.
Investigators say he called the Harris County Sheriff's Office on March 19 to report his wife missing.
"He was saying to why he even cremated her was, he was just so afraid to even come out with any of this, he just thought that if he just got rid of everything he would solve the problem," she said.
ABC13 witnessed Hammersley cry several times during his first jail visitation with his daughter.
When asked if he was remorseful she replied, "Extremely. He was remorseful, he's always been remorseful for any bad deed he's ever done."
Hammersley and Vestal had a 2-year-old daughter together. We're told that toddler was not home at the time of the crime and is now with family in Missouri. Vestal also leaves behind a son. Hammersley has two other children, ages four and six.
Investigators are still searching for the bagged remains that Hammersley claims he placed in a dumpster.