Kansas City, MO – Jackson County prosecutors have levied a first-degree murder charge against 43-year-old Ja (Jay) Ray. Ray is being accused of killing his 21-year-old girlfriend, Essence Willoughby, back in November 2012. Authorities allege the woman’s two young sons witnessed the stabbing death and drowning disposal of their mother’s body.
The couple had previously broken up, but, on the day of Willoughby’s death, she agreed to attend church services with Ray and their children. According to family, the couple had known one another since Willoughby was 14. An argument ensued between the two in a nearby wooded area, not far from the Gilbert Memorial AME Church. Authorities say Ray then brutally stabbed Willoughby.
When Helen Frazier, Willoughby’s mother, was unable to reach her on the phone, she called Ray. Ray claimed Willoughby had left the church with another man he didn’t know, leaving behind her 2- and 3-year-old sons. An area search began for the missing woman.
The eldest of the two children provided authorities with details surrounding the location of the body and attack. He admitted to witnessing his father kill his mother. The child detailed the blood and screaming. He led police to a wooded area and creek where they discovered the woman’s body, lying face down in shallow water and buried beneath leaves. Police also found clothing and a knife handle. DNA evidence linked Ray to the crime.
Ray has a previous criminal charge for domestic assault and was serving two years of probation at the time of Willoughby’s murder. First-degree murder in the state of Missouri is a Class A felony. Ray could face life imprisonment without the eligibility of parole, or death. Ray is being held on $250,000 bond for both the murder charge and probation violation.
[Image via Shutterstock]