Trial begins for daughter accused in seafood restaurant founder’s death

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Jury selection began Monday for the daughter of a well-known local restaurateur who is accused of killing her father with a metal spatula and rolling pin before storing his body in a bedroom for days. 

Kelli Diedre Sartin, 55, appeared before 52 potential jurors Monday so the prosecution and defense could agree on two and at least one alternate before trial begins Tuesday. 

READ HERE: For first day coverage.

Sartin, who was present for the selection pool, has been jailed since Sept. 9, 2019, on a $1 million bond. She’s accused of killing her father, 81-year-old Charles Sartin, who in 1971 started the first of several Sartin’s Seafood restaurants. 

Kelli was arrested Sept. 9, 2019, after Port Arthur police were sent to the 5000 block of Tremont Street in Sabine Pass at 4:19 a.m. regarding a welfare check. 

At the time, according to a probable cause affidavit, the accused said her father committed suicide with a rolling pin and metal spatula four days prior. 

The victim’s body was found inside a bedroom, where he had been wrapped in a tarp. Police reports say the room was cleaned with bleach and the bedroom door had been taped shut. 

Sartin has remained in jail since that day because, as the prosecution said Monday, attorneys have failed to reach a plea agreement. 

The first contingency on starting the trial was to have enough jurors present. Amid COVID-19, that has been harder than usual. However, said District Attorney Bob Wortham, priority goes to criminal trials. On Monday, 52 of 62 requested jurors appeared. 

“We have been trying now for a year and a half to work on trials,” said presiding Judge Raquel West of the 252nd District Court, while speaking to potential jurors. “We appreciate you coming.” 

Assistant District Attorney Phillip Smith and Defense Attorney Tom Burbank spoke to jurors, although neither gave specifics about the case. 

They did say, however, that attempts at reaching a plea agreement had not been successful over the last two years. 

Trial is not expected to last longer than Friday. 

Sartin, if found guilty, has elected on punishment by jury. 

The sentence for first-degree murder carries a punishment of 5-99 years or life in prison.