A former Tarrant County sheriff’s deputy accused of killing his girlfriend in a Denton home last year has been released on bail after the amount was lowered from its original $1.15 million amount.
Jay Allen Rotter was a Tarrant sheriff’s deputy living in Denton when he allegedly killed his girlfriend Leslie Hartman on Aug. 26. He originally reported her death as a suicide, but Denton police determined her death was a homicide, according to records.
Rotter was arrested on Sept. 14 in connection with Hartman’s death and was confined to the Denton County Jail until he bailed out on June 2. The order lowering Rotter’s bail to $770,000 was filed March 4.
According to court documents, Rotter and his family weren’t able to raise enough money to pay the minimum amount for his $1.15 million bail. Rotter’s attorney argued in January that amount was unreasonable and that he was being unlawfully restrained at the jail.
“Said restraint is illegal because the Defendant is entitled to a reasonable bond under the statutory and constitutional provisions set out above,” states the writ of habeas corpus and writ for reasonable bond. “The amount of bond is a tool to guarantee the Defendant’s presence in court and not to be used as an instrument of oppression.”
The original bail amounts were $1 million for murder, $150,000 for tampering with evidence and $10,000 for a drug possession charge. Following a hearing in March, the amounts were lowered to $750,000 for murder and $10,000 for tampering with evidence, but the bail amount for the drug charge remained the same.
Court records show Rotter’s attorney wanted to lower the bail amount for murder to $50,000 and stated his family could collect enough money to post a maximum bond of $125,000 by putting forth $12,500 to an area bail bondsman.
In the petition to lower Rotter’s bond, his defense argued the trial court abused its discretion in setting his bail amount by not properly considering relevant factors, stating the $750,000 isn’t congruent with similar cases in Texas and adding that the $750,000 amount is “presumptively oppressive.”
The 2nd Court of Appeals in Texas upheld the new bail amount, noting Rotter is accused of murder and his story of the events was inconsistent with the evidence, the lengthy prison sentence if convicted heightens the importance of setting a sufficiently high bail, and questioning if his family ties would outweigh flight-risk and suicide attempt concerns.
“This court and others have affirmed bail amounts set at $750,000 or higher in cases of murder or other serious first-degree felonies,” court records state. “The record before us contains no evidence that the trial court’s express purpose of setting a $750,000 bail — lowered from $1 million — was to keep Rotter incarcerated.”
As a part of his bond conditions, Rotter had to report to Denton County adult probation on June 3 to receive an on-person GPS monitor. A court order shows he’s allowed to travel only within Denton and Tarrant counties without prior approval from the court or probation officers.
According to police records, Rotter called 911 on Aug. 26 and said Hartman shot herself with his gun. During Denton police’s investigation, they found he admitted in an online chat to shooting someone that same night. Police said Rotter used his phone when detectives left the room from interviewing him to reset it to its factory settings.
Rotter’s attorney didn’t return a call back for comment by early Thursday evening.
Rotter’s next court appearance, scheduled for June 18, will be an announcement hearing.