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Man Claimed His Ex-Girlfriend Died After Slipping in Bathtub. Today, He Goes on Trial for Murder

(BANGOR POLICE DEPARTMENT)

Jury selection started on Monday, with a group of seven women, five men, and two alternates chosen, as reported by The Virginian-Pilot. The trial’s opening statements began on Tuesday, marking a pivotal moment awaited by the family of the victim, LeeAnn Hartleben.

Trisha Cahoon, Hartleben’s cousin, previously told PEOPLE, “LeeAnn was a good person,” emphasizing her hope for justice and stating that her cousin did not deserve her fate.

Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster decided on Monday that evidence collected from the crime scene right after Hartleben’s demise, such as a bloodied comforter, towel, and pillow, would be admitted. This also includes a blood-stained shirt retrieved by a family-hired private investigator and later given to the police. However, Foster expressed reservations about evidence gathered later in September 2020, with a decision pending on its admissibility.

Cahoon had been suspicious about her cousin’s death, especially after learning it resulted from “complications of blunt force trauma to the head with hepatic cirrhosis contributing.” The cause of death was deemed “undetermined.”

Concerned about potential foul play after discovering blood in the house, Cahoon and her family sought a private investigator, alleging that the police were inadequately investigating the matter. The family documented and shared evidence of blood stains throughout Hartleben’s residence on a YouTube channel, #JUSTICEforLeeAnn.

Amid increasing public pressure, District Attorney Andrew Womble stated that they were awaiting the autopsy results to determine any charges. The family’s persistence for justice led to a campaign and a march to the Kitty Hawk Police station.

Their relationship story further complicates the case. Hartleben and Tolson, who became romantically involved shortly after meeting, faced challenges. Tolson, whom Hartleben had briefly sheltered, reportedly became possessive, leading Hartleben to end the relationship, a move that Cahoon believes infuriated Tolson.

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