Texas sheriff’s deputy accused of killing wheelchair-bound girlfriend, claiming it was suicide

Texas sheriff’s deputy accused in girlfriend’s murder, claiming it was suicide

DENTON, Texas — When Jay Allen Rotter called 911 last month, sobbing and cursing, he told a dispatcher his girlfriend had shot just herself while the couple was in an embrace inside their Texas home.

Denton police officials said this week that Rotter’s claims were a lie, his distress, an act. The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office narcotics detective was charged Monday with murder and tampering with evidence in the death of Leslie Lynn Hartman.

Hartman, 46, was paralyzed from a car crash and used a wheelchair, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. According to friends, she was an artist who created stained glass and jewelry.

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“She didn’t let anything stop her from doing anything she wanted,” longtime friend Christie Wood told the newspaper. “We were shocked to hear that she passed away, and when we didn’t hear anything about how she passed away, we were confused.”

An arrest affidavit states that Rotter, 36, called 911 at 11:34 p.m. Aug. 26 to report Hartman had killed herself. In the call, he was “upset … at times, yelling and cursing at the 911 operator.”

Rotter told the dispatcher Hartman had shot herself about 90 seconds before the call. Denton patrol officers arrived at the home about six minutes later and found Hartman in a front bedroom, lying on the floor next to her wheelchair.

She was dead from a gunshot wound to the side of her head, the affidavit says. Bloodstains were found in the bathroom, living room and hallway, and Rotter had blood on his body and clothing.

According to the affidavit, Rotter sobbed on the 911 call but stopped crying when the dispatcher asked him questions.

“At one point during the 911 call, the male tells the operator he knows how this goes,” the affidavit says. “(Rotter) advised he was once a 911 operator and is now a cop, advising that he knows how this goes.”

At the Denton Police Department, Rotter told detectives Hartman had apparently retrieved his duty weapon without his knowledge. He said they were streaming the film “Arkansas” on a computer in the bedroom when they hugged.

That is when she shot herself, he claimed.

“Rotter advised after Hartman shot herself, (she) slumped over onto his lap,” the document alleges.

The deputy claimed he stood up and ran from the room to call 911.

During questioning, detectives asked Rotter if they could take his cellphone and download its data to look at messages between him and Hartman. Rotter refused.

“(Detective Rodney) Mooneyham later found while watching video footage from Rotter’s interview, Rotter removed his cellphone from his right front pocket as both detectives were walking out of the room,” the affidavit says. “Rotter is observed manipulating the phone, returning the phone back to the factory settings.”

When the detectives returned and told Rotter his phone was being seized as evidence, he willingly turned it over, the document says.

‘Just sent a 9 millie in this (expletive) hippie’

The investigation into the shooting of Hartman, described by police as an “eco-friendly nature lover” who sometimes used psychedelic drugs, almost immediately began pointing not toward suicide, but to murder.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for Hartman’s cellphone and found that she had been texting with a friend the night she died.

“In the messages, Hartman does not suggest that she is feeling depressed or suicidal,” the affidavit states. “Hartman does suggest that Rotter is in a ‘mood’ and would need to sort himself out tonight due to the fact Rotter is having trouble with the amount of drugs he (Rotter) is consuming.”

Hartman’s final text to her friend, sent around 11:12 p.m., talked about the unexpected rain and “how gorgeous it was,” the document says.

Read the arrest affidavit below.

Evidence uncovered by detectives indicated that Rotter fired his Glock pistol in the backyard of their home a half-hour before his 911 call. The investigators obtained video footage from a neighbor’s security camera, which recorded a loud noise, believed to be the gunshot that killed her, at 11:04 p.m.

That shot was a full 30 minutes prior to Rotter’s 911 call, and eight minutes before Hartman’s final text message, the affidavit says.

Rotter’s computer showed that he had been using the Discord instant messaging service the night of the shooting. A few minutes after the gunshot heard on the neighbor’s security camera, Rotter wrote that he had gone into the backyard and “killed that milk bomb.”

Detectives found a spent shell casing and an organic milk bottle, with bullet entrance and exit holes in it, in the yard. According to the arrest affidavit, the shell casing matched the one found in the bedroom where Hartman died, as well as the bullets still in Rotter’s gun.

Pictured in a July 2018 Street View image is the Denton, Texas, home where Leslie Hartman died Aug. 26, 2020. Her boyfriend, Tarrant County Deputy Jay Rotter is charged with murder and evidence tampering in her fatal shooting.
Pictured in a July 2018 Street View image is the Denton, Texas, home where Leslie Hartman died Aug. 26, 2020. Her boyfriend, Tarrant County Deputy Jay Rotter is charged with murder and evidence tampering in her fatal shooting. (Google)

Two minutes after his message about the milk bomb, Rotter posted a photo of himself holding his Glock. The furniture and items on the desk in the photo match what detectives saw in crime scene photos taken of the bedroom after Hartman was killed.

At 11:13 p.m., Rotter’s chat messages indicate he and Hartman were arguing about his firing the gun in the backyard. A minute later, he typed a chilling statement.

“I just sent a 9 millie in this (expletive) hippie,” the message stated, according to police.

Mooneyham wrote in the affidavit that the hippie statement appeared to reference Hartman.

Jay Rotter, a deputy with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, is accused of killing his girlfriend, Leslie Hartman, at their Denton, Texas, home Aug. 26, 2020, and trying to pass it off as suicide.
Jay Rotter, a deputy with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, is accused of killing his girlfriend, Leslie Hartman, at their Denton, Texas, home Aug. 26, 2020, and trying to pass it off as suicide. (Denton County Jail)

“Based on the timeline of the security footage, the text messages and the chat room messages, your affiant believes that Rotter shot his weapon at the milk bottle at approximately 2304 hours,” the document states, using military time. “Your affiant further believes that between 2312 hours and 2334 hours is when Rotter shoots Hartman.”

The detective wrote that the physical evidence, along with video and audio footage, indicated Rotter killed Hartman, and that his statement about the alleged suicide was not supported by the evidence.

“Rotter’s communications inside the Discord chat room supports the physical evidence at the scene and the events preceding Hartman’s death,” he wrote.

The deputy was booked Monday into the Denton County Jail. His bail was set at $1.15 million.

Jay Rotter, a deputy with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, is pictured, at left, with former Sheriff Dee Anderson in an April 2012 photo. Rotter is accused of killing his girlfriend, Leslie Hartman, at their Denton, Texas, home Aug. 26, 2020, and trying to pass it off as suicide.
Jay Rotter, a deputy with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, is pictured, at left, with former Sheriff Dee Anderson in an April 2012 photo. Rotter is accused of killing his girlfriend, Leslie Hartman, at their Denton, Texas, home Aug. 26, 2020, and trying to pass it off as suicide. (Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office)

Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said in a statement that Rotter, who has been a deputy since 2005, was placed on administrative leave following his arrest. According to a 2012 Facebook post, Rotter, then still a 911 dispatcher, had been named the agency’s Operations Deputy of the Year.

“We are shocked and saddened about the incident and (the) arrest of Jay Rotter,” read the statement obtained by CBS Dallas-Fort Worth. “We have very little information regarding the situation at this time. We believe in the criminal justice process and the truth will prevail.”

Wood told the Star-Telegram that Hartman had told her about a month before she was killed that she had a new boyfriend. She did not say what the man did for a living but appeared happy and boasted about getting a new puppy.

“Suicide did not seem in any way remotely possible,” Wood said. “She had been bragging about getting a new puppy. People who commit suicide don’t usually do stuff like that.”

Jay Rotter, a deputy with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, is accused of killing his girlfriend, Leslie Hartman, at their Denton, Texas, home Aug. 26, 2020, and trying to pass it off as suicide.
Jay Rotter, a deputy with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, is accused of killing his girlfriend, Leslie Hartman, at their Denton, Texas, home Aug. 26, 2020, and trying to pass it off as suicide. (Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office)