A Tarrant County Sheriff's Deputy is accused of murdering his girlfriend and tampering with evidence after he reported she had died by suicide, Denton police say.
According to the Denton Police Department, officers were called to a home on the 2400 block of Robinwood Lane at about 11:34 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26 on the report of a shooting.
The caller, later identified as 36-year-old Tarrant County Sheriff's Department Deputy Jay Allen Rotter, called 911 to report his girlfriend shot herself.
Officers arrived a short time later and reported finding the body of a deceased woman inside the home the couple shared. The woman was identified Monday as 46-year-old Leslie Lynn Hartman.
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As the investigation continued over the next few weeks, Denton police said Monday "detectives executed search warrants and analyzed physical evidence" that led to them developing Rotter as a suspect in the woman's death and seek a warrant for his arrest.
On Tuesday, an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by NBC 5 (see below at the bottom of this article) said Rotter called 911 and reported that his girlfriend shot herself in the head with his duty weapon as they hugged.
During an interview with police, investigators said Rotter refused to surrender his mobile phone and restored it to factory settings while in the interview room alone.
Police said they later seized his mobile phone and a computer at the couple's home and performed forensic downloads of the data on both devices.
Investigators wrote in the affidavit that text messages recovered from the phone showed a conversation between Hartman and Rotter where she suggested he was 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) was consuming."
A computer recovered from the couple's bedroom indicated Rotter had participated in a chatroom using software called Discord where at 11:06 p.m. that night he said he "went to the back yard and 'I killed that milk bomb.'" The time frame of the message, investigators said, coincided with security cam footage obtained from a neighbor where a gunshot is heard at 11:04 p.m. Detectives said they also found a shell casing in the back yard matching one found in the bedroom and a bottle of organic milk in the trash can with an entrance and exit hole in the container.
Investigators said that Rotter posted a photo of him holding a Glock pistol at 11:08 p.m. that was apparently taken in the bedroom.
At 11:13 p.m., the Discord chat record showed he and Hartman were arguing over him firing the gun in the back yard. At 11:14 p.m., detectives said an additional message was posted that said, "I just sent a 9 millie in this fuckin hippie." Detectives believed he was referring to Hartman and her "lifestyle as a person who is eco-friendly, nature lover and her use of psychedelic drugs."
Rotter called 911 at about 11:34 p.m., police said. In the call, he reported his girlfriend shot herself in the head 90 seconds ago as they hugged after she took his duty weapon from a storage bin in the bedroom without his knowledge. He reportedly said, "she is done" and that he "would have stopped her if he could have."
Hartman's neighbors said she was upbeat, outgoing, and independent even though a car accident years ago left her unable to walk.
"She was artistic, a good neighbor, loved animals," said neighbor Chrissie Clanton. "She had actually just adopted a new puppy, so it didn't add up."
On Monday, Rotter was taken into custody on a warrant for murder and tampering with evidence. He is currently being held in the Denton City Jail on a bond of $1,150,000.
"It's not better that it's murder, but it makes more sense actually," said neighbor Eliot Harrod.
It is not clear if Rotter has obtained an attorney.
The Tarrant County Sheriff's Office issued the following statement Monday.
"We are shocked and saddened about the incident and arrest of Jay Rotter. We have very little information regarding the situation at this time. We believe in the criminal justice process and the truth will prevail. The Denton Police Department, in Denton County, is the arresting agency and the investigation is on-going.
Rotter has been employed with TCSO since 2005 and assigned to the narcotics division. We are cooperating with Denton PD and all questions regarding the case should be directed to them at 940-349-8181."