Ex-boyfriend of Texas woman accused of killing her husband says he had suspicious house fire after break-up

Sarah Jean Hartsfield has been married five times, according to investigators, and is accused of murdering her most recent husband in Beach City, Texas.

An ex-boyfriend of Sarah Jean Hartsfield, the Chambers County woman who has been married five times and is accused of murdering her most recent husband as well as fatally shooting a past fiancée, tells KPRC 2 their relationship ended in literal flames in 2016.

He said the couple dated long distance for about two years while Hartsfield was married to another man, but insisted a divorce was imminent.

“Whenever she got mad, it was like World War Three,” the ex-boyfriend, who asked KPRC 2 not to use his name, said in an interview. “It ended in about as horrible as it could ever be for a person.”

Their relationship was over in 2016. After a back-and-forth with restraining orders, he said they met up to call it quits for good.

“She went in her vehicle her way and I went in my vehicle my way,” he said. “We basically walked away agreeing that we were done with each other. She went her way and I went mine.”

He went to a local bar with friends, but within about 20 minutes, said he got a call from the local police department that his house was on fire.

“My bedroom was pretty much destroyed,” he said. “Gutted the whole house. And basically, everything in my house is brand new, except for the studs and the roof.”

He lived in the home for about five years, at that point, and never had any issues, but said investigators ruled the fire’s cause to be faulty wiring.

He considers the circumstances suspicious and part of a fiery past investigators are looking into after Hartsfield’s most recent husband, Joseph, died in a Baytown hospital in January.

Joseph’s official cause of death hasn’t been released, but sources say an insulin overdose likely killed the diabetic.

“We’ll go back as far in her past as possible,” Chambers County District Attorney Cheryl Lieck Henry said.


According to detectives, Hartsfield has called 39 different places home in her adult life.

In the days after a Texas grand jury indicted Hartsfield for Joseph’s murder, Minnesota prosecutors announced they are re-opening a case from 2018 when she shot and killed her then-fiancée David Bragg. The same prosecutor that re-opened the case initially deemed it a justifiable self-defense shooting.

“His death was very random and the circumstances that surrounded his death seemed farfetched and almost made up,” the Bragg family wrote in a statement to KPRC 2.

Hartsfield’s defense attorney is asking the judge to lower her $5 million bond, writing that she has tried to cover the amount needed with help from family and friends, but hasn’t been able to come up with the necessary funds, according to court documents.

“Sarah Hartsfield maintains her innocence and will assist in the investigation of her husband’s untimely death. We adamantly denounce the misinformation that has been provided to the public regarding her past, as well as any criminal involvement currently in Chambers County. We are engaged in the discovery process and would remind the public to withhold any judgment until due process has been satisfied,” her defense attorney Keaton Kirkwood wrote in a statement.

He declined to share how much they will ask for the bond to be lowered, only that they will ask a judge for it to be reasonable based on information in the Chambers County case, not hearsay or previously-investigated claims.

“I was very glad to see they put that high bond on because she would run. There’s no way she would stick around and face the music,” her first ex-husband Titus Knoernschild said in an interview with KPRC 2 last week. “I knew she would eventually get caught for who she is.”

Her ex-boyfriend whose house burned in 2016 said he feels lucky to be alive based on everything he’s learned. He also feels bad for both families in Minnesota and Texas dealing with deaths.

“The only way you’re going to protect the next man from harm is, Texas needs to do their job and keep her locked up somehow, someway,” he said.

About the Author:

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.