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After woman was charged in her husband's murder, authorities take a fresh look at other deaths close to her

Sarah Hartsfield is accused of killing her husband in Texas, but officials in Minnesota are re-examining the deaths of a former fiancé and a woman connected to one of her ex-husbands.
Green paint stroks overlaid on top of ripped images of Sarah Hartsfield and victims connected to the story
Police have reopened investigations into the deaths of two people linked to Sarah Hartsfield, who has been indicted on a murder charge in the death of her husband in Texas. Leila Register / NBC News

For David George and Sarah Hartsfield, the first eight months of 2018 were marked by death and destruction. His longtime partner died. She fatally shot her fiancé. His home burned.

By the summer of 2019, George, 59, and Hartsfield, 48, were married, and she had been cleared in her former fiancé’s slaying. George was Hartsfield's fourth husband.

It wasn't until months after the death of her fifth husband in Texas earlier this year that officials in Minnesota reopened their investigations into the fire and the death of George's partner.

In February, Hartsfield was indicted on a murder charge in the death of her husband. She is being held in lieu of $4.5 million bail in Chambers County, Texas, and has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.

The investigations in Eagle Bend, Minnesota, northwest of Minneapolis, are active again “in light of new information,” Todd County Sheriff Michael Allen said in a statement to NBC's "Dateline."

No charges have been filed. The sheriff said his office is re-examining the Jan. 31, 2018, death of Rebecca Kunze, 62, and the fire exactly seven months later at the home of George, her longtime partner.

Allen declined to provide additional details.

The prosecutor in nearby Douglas County said in February that his office was re-examining the killing of Hartsfield’s fiancé after authorities previously determined it was an act of self-defense and justified.

More on Sarah Hartsfield

It isn’t clear whether the newly reopened cases have any connection to the shooting of her fiancé. Any possible target of the investigations is unclear.

Kunze’s family has long had questions about her death and its aftermath, said Dana Kunze, her brother, citing instances that he described as “out of the ordinary.”

“I hope to God there’s nothing nefarious,” said Kunze, 62. “I’m also a man of reality. I don’t just believe in coincidences. It’s hard not to look at the whole thing now and not wonder what the hell really happened.”

"All we want to know is the truth," he said.

Rebecca Kunze in the 1990s.
Rebecca Kunze in the 1990s.Courtesy Dana Kunze

David George told "Dateline" this week that Rebecca Kunze — who went by “Becky” — died of a heart valve problem and that he had nothing to do with her death.

He didn’t respond to requests for comment about the cases being reopened.

George acknowledged his role in a separate incident linked to Hartsfield — an apparent plot in which she allegedly pressured him to kill the new wife of one of her ex-husbands.

The ex-husband detailed the allegations in an affidavit in support of a protection order against Hartsfield two years ago. In the interview, George told "Dateline" that Hartsfield gave him a gun but that he had no intention of going through with the killing.

In a text message to "Dateline" from jail, Hartsfield denied the allegation and said she "never gave George any kind of gun ever."

No clear answers about death

Becky Kunze was the oldest sibling of five in a close-knit family that grew up in the Minneapolis area, her brother said. She met David George at a hearing aid company where she was a sales rep and he was an accountant, Dana Kunze said. They got together in the late 1980s or the early ’90s, he said.

While Becky Kunze was working at a residential home for people with disabilities three decades ago, a patient pushed her down a flight of stairs, causing a broken back and years of health problems, her brother said. 

For a time, Becky Kunze smoked cigarettes and took pain medicine to cope with the injury, although by the time of her death she had quit smoking and mostly weaned herself from the medication, he said. A few years ago, she had heart valve surgery and related complications that were later resolved, Dana Kunze said.

“She was living with it just fine,” he said.

To Dana Kunze, the details of his sister’s death have remained vague, and he said George never provided the family with clear answers.

Ryan Donohue, one of Hartsfield’s children who lived with her while she was married to George, recalled George saying that on the day of her death, Becky Kunze “had been doing nothing but screaming all day and gave herself a heart attack.”

“He told that story to everyone,” Donohue said.

After his sister’s death, Dana Kunze said his family felt rushed. Within days, she’d been cremated, all of her possessions had been donated and a service was held in a place that felt more like a cramped garage than a church, Dana Kunze said.

Becky Kunze's family supported her cremation and did not request an autopsy, her brother said.

“I had a conversation with one of my sisters who said, ‘All I wanted was one of her sweaters so I could get her scent again,’” Dana Kunze said. “There was nothing.”

“I personally felt steamrolled, and I never understood it,” he said.

Hartsfield kills her fiancé

On May 9, 2018, roughly three months after Becky Kunze’s death, Sarah Hartsfield fatally shot her onetime fiancé in the large home they had moved to from Texas months before.

David Bragg.
David Bragg.KPRC

George told "Dateline" this week he delivered propane to the house and had seen Hartsfield once before David Bragg was killed. He and Hartsfield met afterward, George said. 

In a partly redacted "call for service" document about the incident from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, five people are listed — Hartsfield, then known as Sarah Donohue; her fatally wounded fiancé; an ex-husband who was visiting at the time; her oldest daughter in Texas; and George.

The document doesn’t say why it includes George, who didn’t respond to a follow-up request for comment.

Lacey Grinager, the records supervisor with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, declined to comment on the specifics of the case because it is open.

Generally, that type of document covers people who may have a connection to an emergency response — witnesses and suspects, guardians and key holders, complainants and people "mentioned in conversation for any number of reasons," Grinager said.

Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson initially cleared Hartsfield in the shooting, saying she had “no reasonable possibility of retreating” from Bragg, who she said had fired at her.

After Hartsfield was indicted this year on the Texas murder charge, Larson said the case was active again.

Hartsfield told "Dateline" this month by text that when she opened fire, she was "looking down the barrel of a .45 thinking, 'This man is really going to kill me.'"

"He fired at me first," she said. "Had I not dove into the floor at the base of the stairs, he would have shot me in the head."

Within months of the shooting, Hartsfield's son said, George had become a “more permanent fixture” at their home — he moved in that summer and started paying rent. She and George were married the next June, Donohue said.

"I thought he was a good guy," Donohue said. "He never raised his voice at us. He would say, 'You could listen or not listen; it's up to you.'"

Sarah Hartsfield and Ryan Donohue.
Sarah Hartsfield and Ryan Donohue.

Destructive fire

On Aug. 31, 2018, shortly before George moved in with Hartsfield and her children, the home where he had lived with Becky Kunze went up in flames. George said he and Hartsfield were in Texas at the time.

The cause of the fire is unclear. A brief incident report from the Todd County Sheriff’s Office said it broke out around 5:20 p.m. and crews from three local agencies responded. It was extinguished five hours later, and the house was a total loss, the report says.

George’s son, David George Jr., reported the blaze to authorities. Efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

Among the things lost in the fire, Dana Kunze said, was something his family had previously asked George for: his sister's ashes.

The family had planned to place them at Fort Snelling National Cemetery with their mother, he said.

In a phone call after the fire, before Dana Kunze knew the ashes were gone, George broke the news, telling him they were on the mantle and had burned with everything else, Dana Kunze said.

"I said, 'Are you kidding me?'" Dana Kunze recalled. "I got this deep, sickening feeling that he never wanted me to have them. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong about that, but that's what I felt personally."

George didn’t respond to a follow-up request for comment.

Alleged murder plot

About two years after they were married, George was implicated in the alleged murder plot involving Hartsfield’s third husband, Christopher Donohue.

Christopher Donohue said in the protection order affidavit filed in 2021 that George told him Hartsfield had been pushing him for months to kill Donohue’s new wife.

She’d given George a pistol to carry out the act and wouldn’t let him come home until he’d done so, George said, according to the affidavit.

At one point, George traveled to Arizona and delivered flowers to Christopher Donohue without identifying himself or his reason for being there, according to the affidavit.

George told "Dateline" this week that he didn’t have the gun with him when he went to the door and that he had no intention of going through with the alleged plot.

He said he “hoped Sarah Jean would come to her senses and know that was not going to happen.”

No charges were filed, a police spokesman in Sierra Vista, Arizona, has said.

Hartsfield filed for divorce from George on April 1, 2021, four days before Christopher Donohue filed the affidavit detailing the alleged plot.

"I got burned," George said. "I got burned hard."