Boyfriend Said N.C. Mom Died After Slipping in Bathtub — But 3 Months Later, He's Charged with Murder

On the morning of July 22, LeeAnn Fletcher Hartleben’s boyfriend called 911, saying he found her unconscious in the bathtub of her Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, home.

John “Jay” Curtis Tolson told the dispatcher he thought Hartleben, 38, had slipped, according to a recording of the 911 call.

“She had been drinking and she fell in the kitchen,” he can be heard saying on the 911 call. “She’s breathing really loudly. I just can’t get her to wake up.”

The mother of two was rushed to a local hospital, where she died on July 25 – just three days before her 39th birthday.

At the time of her death, authorities didn’t say whether they believed her injury was accidental.

Police interviewed Tolson, who was considered a “person of interest” at the time of Hartleben’s death.

No arrests were made, leaving Hartleben’s family and friends demanding answers.

In mid-September, District Attorney Andrew Womble said he was waiting for autopsy results before deciding whether or not he would pursue criminal charges, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

In October, autopsy results showed that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

According to a report from the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner obtained by The Pilot, the manner of death — how she sustained the injury — was ruled undetermined.

Then on Monday, three months after Hartleben’s death, a grand jury in Dare indicted Tolson, charging him with second-degree murder in Hartleben’s death, OBX Today reports.

Served with an arrest warrant in Maine, Tolson was taken into custody by the Bangor Police Department, News 3 reports.

It is unclear why Tolson was in Maine.

Tolson has not yet entered a plea. He is scheduled to appear in Dare County Superior Court on Nov. 30. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney who can comment on his behalf.

Hartleben’s cousin, Trisha Cahoon, who’s been asking authorities to take a closer look at the case since July, grew emotional when she heard Tolson had been arrested.

“You would think that you would feel happy and rejoiceful … but I wasn’t,” a teary-eyed Cahoon told local station News 3. “It was like I was happy but at same sense I felt that now I could actually mourn, and all this emotion hit me at one time. I’ve just been crying and thinking about her and everything she went through.”

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In her search for answers, Cahoon posted a video on YouTube called “Justice for LeeAnn," which includes the 911 call Tolson made, The Pilot reports.

The video includes a medical report stating that Hartleben had bruises on her chest, arms, and abdomen, The Pilot reports.

“She had bruises everywhere,” Cahoon told The Pilot. “It was horrible.”

It also contains video footage of the inside of Hartleben’s home, showing bloodstains in several rooms including her bedroom, where her mattress, a pillow – and a red shirt – are covered in blood.

Cahoon says she and her family will not stop until justice is served for her cousin.

“LeeAnn was a good person and she did not deserve this at all,” Cahoon told News 3.

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