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Man and Pregnant Fiancée Have Police Standoff Over Ranch Hand's Murder That Ends in Tragedy
Police accused Hunter Carlstrom and his pregnant fiancée, Xaveriana Cook, of stealing from and fatally shooting Carlstrom’s coworker, James “Caveman” Sartorelli.
Greed was at the heart of the brutal murder of an Arkansas ranch hand in the newest episode of Snapped: Killer Couples, airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
Police accused Hunter Carlstrom and his pregnant fiancée, Xaveriana Cook, of stealing from and fatally shooting Carlstrom’s coworker, James “Caveman” Sartorelli. But before the pair were caught, they evaded police for days and were involved in what ended up as a deadly standoff and shootout.
Was Cook the mastermind or the victim? Her family claims she was just along for the ride — but she still paid the price for her crimes.
“She was afraid that Hunter was going to hurt her and didn’t know what she should do,” Amanda Patton, Xaveriana Cook’s mother, said on Snapped: Killer Couples. “He totally was controlling her mind. She did whatever he told her to do.”
Who was James "Caveman" Sartorelli?
The body of 61-year-old James Sartorelli — better known by his friends and family as “Caveman” — was discovered in his trailer on May 7, 2020. Employees at the cattle ranch where he worked grew concerned when he didn't show up for work for two days and decided to check on him. His coworker found him dead with a gunshot wound to the head.
Arkansas State police responded to help the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office investigate. The trailer sat on the property of the cattle ranch, but there were no other homes nearby. Police found no signs of a break-in or forced entry. There was no evidence of a fight or struggle.
An empty bank bag was found in Sartorelli’s bedroom. A refrigerator that Sartorelli was using as a safe was empty. His friends told police Sartorelli usually kept around 20 guns in the safe. They also told police he had a collection of rare and valuable coins. Friends said he worked for cash — and didn’t have a bank account — keeping thousands of dollars in cash with him.
“He had a money bag, and he always kept it on him,” Pasha Murphy, Sartorelli’s friend, said on Snapped: Killer Couples. “I’m like, somebody is going to kill you over that f--king money one of these days.”
Text Message Changes James Sartorelli Investigation
Arkansas State police got a break when an informant showed them a text he got from a man named Andy Capps one day before Sartorelli’s body was discovered.
“Hey, I think Caveman’s dead … Hunter killed Caveman,” the text read.
As police interviewed Capps, he revealed he knew that Sartorelli and the man from the text, named Hunter Carlstrom, had recently had a fight after Carlstrom crashed a truck he borrowed from Sartorelli. Carlstrom and his fiancée, 23-year-old Xaveriana Cook, had also come to Capps’ home two days before Sartorelli’s body was found.
“Hunter showed up and said, ‘I done it. I got ‘em. I done it,’” Capps told police in an interview. “Said like he’s killing a deer. And that just blows my mind, man.”
Capps told police Carlstrom admitted to taking cash and weapons from Sartorelli after the murder. Capps alleged Carlstrom gave him $1000 of that cash and ordered Capps to burn down Sartorelli’s trailer, and threatened to kill him if he didn’t — but Capps never ended up doing so.
Who are Hunter Carlstrom and Xaveriana Cook?
33-year-old Hunter Carlstrom worked with Sartorelli on the cattle ranch. Police learned Sartorelli got him the job because Sartorelli knew Carlstrom’s father.
Family members told police Cook and Carlstrom met through Carlstrom’s brother, who went to school with Cook. In 2018, the couple, originally from Illinois, moved to Arkansas, where Carlstrom got a job on the cattle ranch. By 2019, Cook was pregnant, and the couple got engaged.
“Everything started getting really bad,” Patton said, describing a time when her daughter was about four months pregnant. “Hunter was getting very abusive with her. She thought he had been using drugs. Hunter was a very caring and loving person —i t was when he started using drugs that he became a monster.”
As police started a search for the couple, they spoke with Carlstrom’s father, who admitted his son asked for his help, but he refused.
Using Carlstrom’s cell phone number, officers were able to trace his location to Oxford, Mississippi — about 244 miles away. The U.S. Marshals Service joined the search.
“I knew that she was in danger,” said Jacob Patton, Cook’s brother, on Snapped: Killer Couples. “Traveling around with him. I was hoping that my sister was alllright.”
How a Police Standoff with Carlstroma and Cook Ended In Tragedy
Four days into a search for the couple, the U.S. Marshals Service spotted Carlstrom’s vehicle, with Cook behind the wheel. When they finally got Cook to stop, she immediately ran out of the car to officers. But Carlstrom put up a fight.
After refusing to show his hands and refusing to comply with law enforcement orders, deputies with the Marshals Service tried to tase Carlstrom — but at the same time, he got out of the car with a gun, shooting at law enforcement. He was killed by return gunfire from the Marshals.
“He caused his own demise,” Deputy Shane Theobald of the U.S. Marshals Service said on Snapped: Killer Couples.
Deputy Bob Dickerson of the U.S. Marshals Service was hit by Carlstrom’s gunfire in the exchange. He had a long recovery, including nine surgeries over a year.
“I had to almost learn how to walk again,” Dickerson said on Snapped: Killer Couples. “I think Hunter Carlstrom is the epitome of evil. I’m willing to forgive a lot of people — don’t know that I can forgive him.”
Cook confessed to law enforcement, admitting she knew Carlstrom murdered Sartorelli. She claimed he stole his guns and money in order for the couple to “start a new life.”
“She was thinking about a baby,” Wendy Jordan, a journalist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, said on Snapped: Killer Couples. “She was thinking about someone that she clearly loved, and she was really thinking about being in that desperate situation. You have to make a decision to stand by the person you love no matter what they’ve done, and hope that at the end of the day you all come home together.”
But they didn’t come home together. Cook was initially put on house arrest and gave birth to her baby. On Feb. 7, 2022, she pleaded guilty to several charges and was sentenced to 84 months in prison.
“A lot of people said she deserved more,” said Jermey Chesser, a friend of Sartorelli’s, on Snapped: Killer Couples. “In my honest opinion, I think it was fair. She got to watch the person that she loved be killed. So, let her live with that.”
Cook is scheduled to be released from prison in 2027 at the age of 31.
“Hunter didn’t really get any punishment for doing what he did,” Murphy said. “I mean, I know he’s not here, but it was just too easy for Hunter. It’s not for everyone else — for his family — but for Hunter, he should have been punished for that.”