The trial of John “Jay” Tolson, the Hatteras Island man accused of murdering 38-year-old Amanda LeeAnn Fletcher Hartleben of Kitty Hawk in July 2020, is scheduled to begin in Dare County Superior Court on Monday, August 28.
Tolson was indicted by a Dare County Grand Jury for second-degree murder on October 26, 2020, and the case has been continued numerous times over the past several years.
The first trial date was set for March 6, 2023, but a continuation was requested by the defense team due to the unavailability of a medical witness in Virginia.
It is possible that the trial date may be continued again, but per an interview with the Outer Banks Voice in March 2023, District Attorney Jeff Cruden stated that cases where the defendant is in custody receive priority. Tolson is currently at the Dare County Detention Center with a $1,00,000 secured bond. When asked by the Outer Banks Voice in March if Cruden expected the trial to take place on Aug. 28, he said “If it goes, it will go that week.”
Tolson was arrested in Maine in October 2020, the day of the Grand Jury indictment, and approximately three months after Hartleben was found unresponsive in a bathtub at her Kitty Hawk home.
Tolson, then 28 years old, made the initial 911 call on the morning of July 22, 2020, stating that she was unresponsive and would not wake up. She died three days later on July 25, after being transported to the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Virginia.
Tolson’s arrest occurred after a long-awaited autopsy report from the Virginia Medical Examiner’s office which determined her cause of death to be “complications of blunt force trauma to the head with hepatic cirrhosis with clinical hepatic failure contributing.” The autopsy stated that the manner of her death was “undetermined,” one of five options which also include homicide, suicide, accident, or natural.
In the three months after her death and before Tolson’s arrest, the case garnered local and national attention, mainly due to a social media campaign by Hartleben’s friends and family members in an effort to ensure a timely investigation. The campaign included an online petition and national media coverage, including a Feb. 2023 story in People Magazine.