A mother of two was found unresponsive July 22 in her Kitty Hawk home with blood on her bed, couch and towels.
LeeAnn Fletcher Hartleben, 38, died three days later at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
Her family believes she was murdered and has taken to social media to seek “Justice for LeeAnn.”
But seven weeks later, Kitty Hawk Police — and now the State Bureau of Investigation — still aren’t sure what happened. In a statement this week, District Attorney Andrew Womble said he is awaiting the results of an autopsy before determining if criminal charges are warranted.
Womble and a police spokesman declined to comment. But since shortly after Hartleben’s death, the Kitty Hawk police department has asked the public for patience.
“At this time, we would respectfully ask that everyone please ... allow us to conduct this investigation in an objective and thorough manner,” police posted on social media. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Leeann’s family.”
The family is tired of waiting, though. They argue Hartleben’s death was not treated like a murder investigation at first.
The family says they have proof their loved one was the victim of foul play. Hartleben’s cousin Trisha Cahoon posted a video on YouTube this week that shows the interior of the home and blood found in several rooms, on clothing, walls, doors and floors. The video also includes the 911 call made by Hartleben’s 28-year-old boyfriend, Jay Tolson.
According to the video, Tolson called 911 at 9:25 a.m. July 22 telling the dispatcher he found Hartleben unresponsive in the bathtub. He says he believed she had been drinking the night before and that she fell in the kitchen.
Cahoon’s nearly hour-long video continues by showing an initial medical report that says Hartleben had bruising on her shoulders, arms, breast, abdomen and chest.
Dilated eyes, clenched teeth and her lack of response indicated a head injury. Doctors operated on her brain shortly after she arrived at the hospital and found severe swelling, said Cahoon, who works as a nurse and is familiar with traumatic injuries.
According to Cahoon, doctors told her the injuries were indicative of a beating rather than a fall.
“She had bruises everywhere,” Cahoon said. “It was horrible.”
The video shows what looks like blood on a bed, a couch, on towels and a blouse. A private investigator hired by the family two days after Hartleben’s death used a chemical that revealed traces of blood. The camera shows the blue display of blood remains on doorways, floors and cabinets in the and the tub and sink in the bathroom.
The police incident report calls the crime an assault on a female and Tolson is named as a person of interest. It says the victim was transported to the hospital “due to an alleged fall” with life threatening injuries.
Attempts to reach Tolson for comment were unsuccessful.
The family found Hartleben’s cell phone on a table after police had searched the house. They tried to turn it in as evidence, but police would not take it, Cahoon said.
Cahoon posted another video Thursday with updates of the family’s efforts. She said the SBI is “going full blast.”
“We will be getting justice for LeeAnn sooner rather than later,” Cahoon said.
Hartleben’s obituary says she is survived by two children, her parents and a brother. The children were staying with relatives the night she was injured.
Jeff Hampton, 252-491-5272, email@example.com