CHAMBERS COUNTY – The mother of an alleged Chambers County murder victim is speaking out for the first time only on KPRC 2 after her son’s wife, Sarah Hartsfield, was charged in his death.
Joseph Hartsfield died on Jan. 15 after a week in a Baytown hospital for a “mysterious illness” doctors couldn’t figure out.
Last week, the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death was due to “complications of toxic effects of insulin” following a peer review of his autopsy.
“If he loved you, he loved you, and he would always be there for you no matter what,” Joseph’s mother, Helen Hartsfield, said. “I don’t think that time will ever heal the loss.”
Joseph was born in Channelview and went to C.E. King High School in Sheldon. He married Sarah in February of 2022 after meeting online, and what the family estimates was about three months of dating.
The couple moved to a home in a gated neighborhood in Beach City in April 2022, when the family said it felt like he started being pulled away from them.
A Chambers County grand jury indicted Sarah in February 2023.
Court documents revealed Joseph’s sugar levels dropped dangerously low into the 40s, and that Sarah allegedly ignored alerts about the low sugar from a phone app and waited at least an hour to call 911 after finding him unresponsive on Jan. 7.
Investigators also found up to 10 insulin pens on his side of the bed.
“He had a big heart,” Helen said. “He just tried, I guess, to see the best in most people.”
She said Joseph was kind of a romantic who always wanted someone to love that would love him.
Helen said she started seeing red flags in his relationship with Sarah last summer, just months into their marriage.
“I won’t say I was surprised at all. I expected something was going to happen,” Helen said.
“He came home in December?” KPRC 2′s Bryce Newberry asked her.
“Yes, he did. The 28th,” Helen said.
“What did he tell your family?” Newberry asked.
“He was leaving her. We went the next day and opened a checking account back up there where we live,” Helen said. “He had already discussed moving with someone, and he just said, ‘Mom, I’m done. I can’t do it anymore. If I stay, she’s going to drive me crazy.’”
Sarah’s defense attorney has told KPRC 2 she maintains her innocence and “will assist in the investigation of her husband’s untimely death.”
But his death has torn his tight-knit family apart.
“I want Joe to be remembered as a gift. I want him to be remembered as loving and caring. He loved his family beyond any words I could ever tell you. And I want him to be remembered for the good person he was,” Helen said.
According to investigators, Sarah has been married five times and has lived in dozens of different places across the country as an adult. She also served in the U.S. Army for about 20 years as a motor transport operator and intelligence analyst, before retiring in April 2017 as a sergeant first class, according to a U.S. Army spokesperson.
After Sarah’s Texas indictment, a Minnesota prosecutor re-opened a 2018 investigation in which Sarah fatally shot her then-fiancée David Bragg. The same prosecutor ruled the shooting five years ago self-defense but said the renewed look at the case was in light of new information that came into the sheriff’s office.
Court documents filed in 2021 also revealed allegations of a murder plot, in which Sarah allegedly pressured her fourth ex-husband, David George, to travel to Arizona to kill the new wife of her third ex-husband, Christopher Donohue. The allegations were later denied in affidavits George submitted to the court, but the Bell County, Texas judge still granted a protective order between Sarah and her two youngest children.
Sarah’s bond was initially set at $5 million for the Chambers County murder charge but was reduced to $4.5 million. Her next court date has not been set.
KPRC 2 has been taking a closer look at this case and Sarah’s past. Stay tuned for when you can watch the full special later this month on the KPRC 2+ Livestream.