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Texas woman indicted for murder after husband suddenly dies of ‘suspicious illness’

Left: Sarah Jean Hartsfield is wearing an orange-and-white striped shirt and holding an identifying placard with her name and booking information in is. She has long brown curly hair and is looking at the camera without smiling. Right: a white car from the Chambers County Sheriff's Office is parked in front of the Hartsfield home.

Left: Sarah Jean Hartsfield is seen in a booking photo. Right: the Hartsfield home (via Chambers County Sheriff’s Office).

A Texas woman whose husband died from what law enforcement described as a “suspicious illness” is now facing murder charges.

Sarah Jean Hartsfield, 48, was indicted by a grand jury on Friday in connection with the death of her husband Joseph Hartfield. The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that its 911 dispatch had “received a call from Baytown Houston Methodist Hospital in reference to the suspicious illness of an emergency room patient who was was transported via ambulance from Beach City, Chambers County, Texas.”

Law enforcement went to the hospital and started an investigation “due to inconsistencies in the information provided by the hospital staff,” the sheriff’s statement said. Additional investigators were called in, and further investigation led to further questions.

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“[A]dditional inconsistencies as well as other determining factors made the illness appear more suspicious in nature,” the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office said. “Sadly, the patient identified as Joseph Hartsfield of Beach City, died as the result of what the Sheriff’s Office believes to be foul play.”

The sheriff’s office said that there was “enough probable cause” to meet with the Chambers County District Attorney’s office, which convened a grand jury on Friday.

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An indictment soon followed, as did an arrest of Hartsfield, who is now being held on a $5 million bond.

“This is an active case and only limited details can be released at this time,” Chambers County Brian Hawthorne said in the statement. “I appreciate the hard work of the deputies and detectives who followed their instincts and identified the suspicious circumstances surrounding Mr. Hartfield’s death that could have been labeled as ‘death due to illness’ instead of murder.”

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