Grand jury indicts Beach City woman for murder of husband who had ‘suspicious illness’

Investigators say she has lived in 39 different places during her adult life and of her living exes, all were scared for their lives.

CHAMBERS COUNTY, Texas – Sarah Jean Hartsfield has been indicted for murder in Chambers County after her husband, 46-year-old Joseph Hartsfield, was rushed to the hospital with a suspicious illness last month.

According to deputies with the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, officers were called to Baytown Houston Methodist Hospital on Jan. 7 around 6:30 p.m. after Joseph was rushed to the emergency room in an ambulance from Beach City.

“For as fast as they would think that he was getting better, he would immediately turn back right around and start crashing,” Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said. He described Joseph Hartsfield as “incoherent” at the hospital.

When authorities arrived, they began investigating several inconsistencies provided by the staff members who were tending to him. Joseph wasn’t responding to the treatments the way doctors expected, Hawthorne said.

Detectives found additional inconsistencies, along with other factors, which made the illness appear even more “suspicious in nature.”

He died as the result of what the sheriff’s office believes to be foul play several days later.

According to his online obituary, he “passed away peacefully due to complications of an ischemic stroke, with his loving wife at his side.”

His sister told KPRC 2 he was a good-hearted man, a fun-loving guy, and that all he ever wanted in life was to be genuinely loved.

“He will be so missed and there will be a huge void in the lives of his family and friends that loved him so dearly,” she wrote. “The pain of losing him will never go away.”

During the investigation, investigators learned Sarah has lived in at least 39 different places throughout her adult life and this was her fifth marriage.

“When we started talking to other husbands and then finding out some of them maybe aren’t alive anymore, and other issues, everything just started pointing to foul play,” Hawthorne said.

Detectives interviewed at least three living exes.

“Every relationship that it appears that she’s been in, everybody wants out of it because they fear for their life,” Hawthorne said. “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.”

The evidence in Joseph’s death, along with information about Sarah’s past, was presented to an emergency Chambers County grand jury. They returned an indictment against Sarah on Friday when she was arrested at the home where the couple lived in a gated neighborhood in Beach City.

Prosecutors requested a high bond because of all the evidence uncovered. A judge set the bond at $5 million.

According to Hawthorne, Sarah initially told investigators no life insurance was available, but they later determined that to be incorrect. He said she’s been cooperative with the investigation, but not forthcoming and truthful.

The sheriff’s office still considers it an active investigation and has reached out to other law enforcement agencies for reports on past cases involving Sarah.

Specific evidence about how Joseph died hasn’t been released and the medical examiner’s office has not released an official cause of death.

About the Authors:

Moriah Ballard joined the KPRC 2 digital team in the fall of 2021. Prior to becoming a digital content producer in Southeast Texas and a Houstonian, Moriah was an award-winning radio host in her hometown of Lorain, Ohio and previously worked as a producer/content creator in Cleveland. Her faith, family, and community are her top passions.

Bryce Newberry joined KPRC 2 in July 2022. He loves the thrill of breaking news and digging deep on a story that gets people talking.