What we know about Texas widow Sarah Hartsfield, under suspicion for death of her 5th husband

Sarah Hartsfield is under investigation after her 5th husband's death was deemed 'suspicious' by officials

Saturday, February 11, 2023
Sarah Hartsfield: Woman accused of murdering 5th husband previously arrested for assaulting 2nd husband in Houston 27 years ago
A Chambers County woman accused of murdering her fifth husband has a prior assault history after an incident with her second husband 27 years ago in Houston, records show.

CHAMBERS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Sarah Hartsfield, the Texas widow charged with the murder of her fifth husband, Joseph Hartsfield, in Chambers County, has had other brushes with the law. Here are the latest headlines on her history from ABC13.

Chambers County woman given $5M bond after she's charged in husband's murder

Sarah Jean Hartsfield, a Chambers County woman accused of killing her husband Joseph, is in jail on a $5 million bond. We're following that story and more in our top stories above.

Hartsfield currently stands charged with murder for the death of her most recent husband, after officials determined he died of foul play.

On Jan. 7, Sarah Hartsfield made a 911 call regarding a medical emergency with her husband. Medics responded to the home in a gated community in Beach City and began administering aid. Joseph was transported to Houston Methodist in Baytown.

At about 6:30 p.m. that day, the sheriff's office received a call from the hospital about the patient's suspicious illness.

Officials told ABC13 that 46-year-old Joseph had diabetes. They said his insulin levels were extremely high four to six hours before Sarah called 911. They said that his glucose monitor had sounded an alarm for quite some time before action was taken.

Authorities arrived at the hospital and began investigating due to what they described as inconsistencies in the information provided by the hospital staff.

"The story that the wife gave the hospital, the deputies, the detectives do not match up to the forensic evidence," Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said.

According to authorities, Joseph was in a coma for a week before death.

Videos shared from Joseph's Facebook page to a group on the social media show his wife, Sarah, hunched over his body, crying as he was wheeled away in the hospital bed to have his organs harvested.

"I think all of that adds up to some of the theatrics we are dealing with in this case," Sheriff Hawthorne said.

Nearly a month after Joseph's death, his wife, Sarah Jean Hartsfield, has been charged with his murder.

Sarah Jean, 48, was arrested and handed a $5 million bond.

The district attorney and the sheriff said she was a flight risk, so they moved quickly with an emergency Grand Jury hearing to charge her and requested a high bond.

1st ex-husband sorry that Chambers Co. man 'had to die' to arrest woman who was married 5 times

Sarah Hartsfield, who is accused of causing her husband's death, has been married five times, documents show. One of those husbands spoke to ABC13.

When the mugshot of Sarah Hartsfield, who's accused of killing her fifth husband, flashed across his computer screen this week, Titus Knoernschild felt shocked and relieved.

"I am glad she has finally been caught for who she is," Knoernschild said, speaking to ABC13 via Zoom from his north Texas home. "I'm just sorry another person had to die to get her caught."

The Sarah Hartsfield charged with murder in Chambers County is the Sarah Smith Knoernschild whom Titus met in high school when both were growing up in Missouri.

Sarah and Titus were high school sweethearts, marrying when they were just teenagers.

"It was rocky," Knoernschild recalled.

By 1995, at the age of 20, they were going through a divorce, and it was ugly.

"She just... Just making it clear that I shouldn't leave her. She would leave me. And then, as it got ugly, she told me that, not to be surprised if I don't make it through this," he said.

According to Knoernschild, Sarah cheated on him by dating his best friend, who became husband number two. A few years later, he says she cheated on her second husband with another man, who became husband number three. All of her first three husbands, Knoernschild says, were in the Army, as was Sarah.

Now, Sarah Hartsfield remains behind bars on a $5 million bond, charged with killing Joseph Hartsfield, husband number five.

"We do know her marriages are all short-lived," Chambers County District Attorney Cheryl Lieck-Henry, who's prosecuting the case, said. "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."

So far, the puzzle pieces paint a disturbing image.

Knoerschild said somewhere between husband number three and four, Sarah was engaged to a man in Minnesota. Public records show that man was shot and killed in 2018. Prosecutors at that time ruled the shooting self-defense and did not charge Sarah.

After her fourth husband, Sarah would reemerge in Chambers County. She married Joseph Hartsfield and moved into a house in Beach City less than a year ago. Neighbors told ABC13 that they rarely saw the couple, unless Joseph was mowing the yard or walking the dogs.

Knoernschild says over the past 27 years, he and his family have always looked over their shoulder, wondering when Sarah would show back up. He detailed several incidents where she actually did turn up to allegedly harass him, even while he was married to other people.

"In 2008, I came back from Germany, was stationed at Fort Hood. And out of the blue, she showed up to my office, wanted to talk and get back together. And then after we got done talking, I had to go to a meeting. She knew this and called my wife, and said, 'Hey, I was just with your husband.' So, I went through my command and had a no-contact order against her to get her to leave us alone," Knoernschild said.

Looking at the charges now, Knoernschild said he's grateful that there is a $5 million bond on his ex and feels terrible for the family of Joseph Hartsfield.

"I was honestly surprised to get out of my marriage alive. Because I was in the Army, I had a $200,000 life insurance on myself at the time. I was very concerned I would end up dead so she could get the money," Knoernschild said.

Minnesota death investigation involving Chambers Co. murder suspect Sarah Hartsfield reopens

Authorities in Douglas County, Minnesota, are reopening an investigation into David Bragg's 2018 death. Bragg was engaged to marry Sarah Hartsfield.

What began as a Chambers County husband's suspicious death in January has, in the past few days, spiraled into a full examination of a woman who's been married five times, engaged at least once, and had two of her partners end up dead.

Sarah Hartsfield, who's already charged and accused of killing her fifth husband, Joseph Hartsfield, is now facing renewed scrutiny in the death of her former fiancé.

On Wednesday, ABC13 confirmed that officials in Douglas County, Minnesota, reopened a death investigation relating to David Bragg, who was once engaged to marry Sarah Hartsfield.

Bragg was shot to death by Hartsfield in 2018, but local investigators deemed it as "self-defense."

Douglas County said new information is leading to the case being reopened.

Eyewitness News reached out to Bragg's family, who released the following statement:

"His death was very random, and the circumstances that surrounded his death seemed farfetched, and almost made up. Unfortunately, the DA for Douglas County was not willing to take this case to trial and wrote it off as 'self-defense,' which brought a lot of concern to us, and zero closure. We are hopeful that this time around, we will be able to have that closure, and the knowledge that nobody else will be hurt by this woman."

Records show Chambers Co. woman accused of murdering 5th husband assaulted 2nd husband 27 years ago

ABC13 has confirmed that on March 11, 1996, Hartsfield, who was going by a different last name, was arrested and charged with the assault of her then-second husband. Records from the Harris County Sheriff's Office show Hartsfield and her then-husband allegedly got into a scuffle in their apartment at the 14,000 block of Rio Bonito. The husband received a citation, but Hartsfield was arrested.

Records show that Hartsfield, in her early 20's, allegedly scraped and bruised her husband. The assault charges were dismissed a week later, with the reason marked "other" by prosecutors at that time.

ABC13 spoke with the second husband on Thursday. He opted to remain anonymous. He told ABC13 he wanted to forget he was ever involved with Hartsfield. Married to Hartsfield between 1996 and 1997, he described their time together as miserable and said his feelings were the same as Titus Knoernschild, Hartsfield's first husband, who talked to ABC13 earlier in the week.

"I knew she'd end up in jail someday," Knoernschild told ABC13. "So she cheated things. She would steal money from people. So I knew she would end up getting caught eventually. That was always my hope. But unfortunately, she's turned to (allegedly) murder. And that's what she's facing now."

ABC13 also spoke with a boyfriend of Hartsfield, who dated her around 2014. He, too, wanted to remain anonymous, saying he had been looking over his shoulder since their breakup, wondering if she would come for him.

On Wednesday, officials in Minnesota announced they were reopening an investigation into the shooting death of David Bragg, Hartsfield's one-time fiance. He was shot to death by Hartsfield in 2018. Officials did not press charges at the time because it was determined to be self-defense.

Hartsfield remains behind bars in Chambers County on a $5 million bond. ABC13 made a call to her court-appointed attorney, but there has yet to be a response.

For news updates, follow Miya Shay on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.