Texas Wife Charged With Murder After New Husband Dies From 'Suspicious' Illness, Authorities Say

Wife Charged with Murder
Sarah Jean Hartsfield was indicted on a murder charge by a Chambers County Grand Jury in Texas.Chambers County Sheriff's Office

Sarah Hartsfield has been charged with murder in the "suspicious" death of her new husband, authorities said. Officials say they want the public's help in gathering information about her four previous marriages and several engagements.

A Texas wife is being held on $5 million bail and has been charged with murder after her new husband died from a "suspicious illness," authorities said.

Sarah Jean Hartsfield is accused of killing her fifth husband, whom she wed less than a year ago, officials said. Her husband, Joseph Hartsfield, had been rushed by ambulance to Baytown Houston Methodist Hospital last month and died there, Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said in a statement.

Hospital officials contacted the sheriff's office regarding "the suspicious illness of an emergency room patient," Hawthorne said.

A subsequent investigation determined there was sufficient evidence to charge Hartsfield with murder, the sheriff said. Prosecutors presented their case to a grand jury, which issued a murder indictment on Friday, authorities said.

Hartsfield is in custody at the Chambers County Jail. She has not entered a plea.

Hartsfield lived in 39 different locations over the years and had four previous husbands and was engaged several times, authorities said.

One former fiancé in Minnesota was reportedly shot and killed by Hartsfield in 2018. It was determined at the time to have been a case of mutual combat, and prosecutors ruled the shooting self-defense, according to local reports.

Hawthorne said investigators have interviewed some of her previous husbands in connection with their case.

“Every relationship that it appears that she’s been in, everybody wants out of it because they fear for their life,” Hawthorne told KPRC-TV. “A number of them have either made the statement, 'I needed out because I felt like my life was in danger,' and some have found where their life was clearly in danger.”

Those statements were part of the information presented to the grand jury, authorities said.

Joseph Hartsfield was "incoherent" when he arrived at the hospital, Hawthorne told the station. "As fast as they would think that he was getting better, he would immediately turn back right around and start crashing,” he said.

Chambers County District Attorney Cheryl Lieck-Henry told local reporters that hospital staff became suspicious about the man's mysterious illness, and that his wife's behavior raised red flags as well.

“He was kept on life support for about two weeks, I believe. During that time, the wife, who is the defendant now, would not allow his family to see him while he was in a vegetative state to say goodbye," the prosecutor said. "Things just started progressing rapidly in our investigation, where a lot of information wasn’t adding up,” she said.

“We do know her marriages were all short lived, so we’re asking the public for any information they have about her, even if it’s mitigating information. We’re putting a puzzle together, and we need all the pieces,” Lieck-Henry said.

Authorities have not released a cause of death for Joseph Hartsfield.

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