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Ex-Sheriff’s Deputy Convicted of Fatally Shooting Wheelchair-Bound Girlfriend, after He Claimed It Was Suicide
Jay Allen Rotter was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the 2020 murder of his girlfriend, Leslie Lynn Hartman, whom he'd claimed had shot herself with his service weapon.
A disgraced former sheriff’s deputy in Texas will spend 30 years behind bars for gunning down his paralyzed girlfriend, whose death he attempted to stage as a suicide.
On August 26, 2020, Rotter dialed 911 and told dispatchers that Hartman had shot herself at their home in Denton, roughly 40 miles northwest of Dallas, police said, according to an Associated Press report from the time. By the time authorities arrived at the property on Robinwood Lane, Hartman was found dead.
Rotter was the only other person at the home, law enforcement said. Physical evidence, sourced from search warrants served in September 2020, implicated him in his girlfriend’s killing, prosecutors said.
What did Jay Rotter claim happened to his girlfriend, Leslie Lynn Hartman?
Rotter told detectives he was watching a movie at his desk in a bedroom when his girlfriend unexpectedly pulled the trigger of his service weapon and shot herself. Officers found him covered in blood from the waist down. He was later jailed on a $1 million bond.
At his trial, Rotter’s lawyers painted Hartman as lonely, arguing she’d grown suicidal leading up to her death, due to her mother’s recent cancer diagnosis. Text messages exchanged between Hartman and a friend corroborated she’d been having suicidal thoughts, but the acquaintance indicated the feelings were fleeting, noting Hartman had also expressed a desire to live. A number of those who knew Hartman also testified at trial that she wouldn’t have killed herself.
The defense argued authorities botched the murder investigation, accusing Denton police of lying to a magistrate and carrying out unlawful searches and seizure, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported. Defense attorney Navid Alband, who had demanded a retrial in the case, also accused prosecutors of suppressing testimony. The case had previously ended in a mistrial when it originally went to trial in 2022.
Rotter had been an employee of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office’s since 2005. At the time of his arrest, he’d been working in its narcotics division. He was later fired.
“We would especially like to recognize the investigative work done by the late Detective Rodney MooneyHam, Detective David Bearden, and Sgt. Tommy Potts in this case,” the Denton Police Department said in a statement on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, following Rotter’s conviction.
Who was Leslie Lynn Hartman?
Hartman, who operated a stained glass studio out of her apartment, was a staple in Denton’s art community, friends and family said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. At 19, a car accident left her without the use of her legs and dependent on a wheelchair to get around, according to friends. She also lived with autonomic dysreflexia, a condition caused by spinal trauma that can trigger dangerous fluctuations of blood pressure. Loved ones described her as “ravenously curious,” the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
“She didn’t let anything stop her from doing anything she wanted,” said her friend, Christie Wood.
Hartman was 46 at the time of her death. She and Rotter began dating in February 2020.
It’s unclear if Rotter plans to appeal his verdict. Oxygen.com has reached out to Rotter’s defense team for comment.