After watching his mother stab his girlfriend of 11 years Sunday in the home they shared, Richard Hartman embraced his longtime love. He desperately applied pressure to 27-year-old Tanya Knower's cuts, but the injuries were fatal.
"She died in my arms," Hartman, sobbing, remembered Monday. "She looked in my eyes, took a deep breath, and she was gone."
Hartman was suddenly left alone to raise his and Knower's two daughters, ages 6 and 9. Meanwhile, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office booked his 54-year-old mother, Joan Faye Hartman, with second-degree murder.
"I'm just lost right now," Richard Hartman, 34, told The Times-Picayune. "I don't know what to do."
According to officials, Hartman, Knower and their children were living with Hartman's parents in a home on Brookter Road near Slidell. Knower and Joan Hartman did not get along, and "anger (had) built and been in place for years," Sheriff Jack Strain said Monday at a news conference.
Investigators learned that Joan Hartman "disagreed with just about everything (Knower) did as a mom," the sheriff said.
An argument erupted between the two women past midnight early Sunday. Knower at one point announced that she was going to leave the home with her kids, and "that was more than Mrs. Hartman could take," Strain said.
Richard Hartman on Monday said he was in his living room when he heard the commotion. He says he broke up the confrontation, and Knower was walking away when Joan Hartman drew a steak knife from her sweatpants.
Joan Hartman plunged the blade into Knower's back, Richard Hartman recounted. Richard Hartman said he attempted to render whatever aid he could to his girlfriend. Joan Hartman then allegedly stabbed Knower in the abdomen.
Sheriff's spokesman Capt. George Bonnett said his agency was then notified of the incident. Responding deputies encountered Richard Hartman outside the residence, and he led them inside to where Knower was lying on the floor.
Strain said Joan Hartman was standing over Knower, cursing at her and yelling, "I hope you die!"
Acadian Ambulance subsequently transported Knower to a hospital for treatment, but she was pronounced dead, the St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office said.
As authorities secured the home, they discovered the children and Joan Hartman's husband asleep in their bedrooms. Joan Hartman was arrested and questioned, and she admitted to stabbing Knower, Bonnett said.
Joan Hartman remained in the St. Tammany jail on Monday in lieu of $250,000 bond, records show. Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life prison sentence upon conviction.
Prior to Sunday's killing, Joan Hartman had a history with the Sheriff's Office.
The agency says she was referred to hospitals for evaluations after a suicide attempt on May 5, 2007, and an Oct. 14, 2010, breakdown in which she both threatened to harm herself and resisted deputies called out to handle the disturbance.
The Sheriff's Office acknowledged that Joan Hartman's previous troubles may play a part in her case as it moves forward toward trial, but, it added, "that is not to say that is a justification for the homicide."
Strain also said detectives have reason to believe Joan Hartman had purchased the knife used in the slaying "some time ago" in case she ever needed it against Knower.
Richard Hartman, who works weatherizing homes, said Knower had one more year of school to finish before she became a nurse. He said he has let his girls know their mom is gone but spared them the details.