The father of a Molt man shot to death at the family's farm last month described his son Friday as "generous to a fault."
"Michael took people at face value," Harold Blattie said of his son. "He never had a harsh word or passed judgment. He would help anyone."
Michael Blattie, 33, died Oct. 15 of a gunshot that authorities say was fired by a neighbor, Jeffrey Lynn Hardman. Hardman, 48, has been charged in Stillwater County with deliberate homicide. He is being held on $2 million bond at the Yellowstone County jail; he will be arraigned Nov. 16.
A former Stillwater County commissioner, Harold Blattie is now executive director of the Montana Association of Counties, an organization that provides insurance and other services to county governments.
Speaking by telephone from Helena on Friday, Blattie declined to share what little information he has been told about the criminal case, saying the family does not want to jeopardize the prosecution. But he did share memories of his son.
Blattie said he and his wife, Betty, lived for 29 years on the farm a few miles outside Molt, where they raised four sons. Blattie and his wife moved to Helena in 2001. Michael had returned to live at the family farm a short time before his parents moved.
Michael attended public schools in Molt and Rapelje, graduating from Rapelje High School in 1994. He was an average student, his father recalled, and like most boys in the rural community played on the school basketball team.
The couple's second child, Michael tussled with his brothers - Chris, Tim and Matt - plenty on the farm, Blattie recalled. As the boys grew to men, their bond became stronger, he said.
Being raised on a farm, Michael and his brothers learned to drive farm equipment at an early age, Blattie said. Michael, he said, seemed to have a knack for getting stuck.
"Probably one of the most vivid memories I have of Mike is that he never met a snowbank or mud puddle that he didn't like," Blattie said. "I cannot begin to count the number of times that I had to go retrieve him after getting stuck. Many people tell of watching the tractor out in a field and wondering if there was anyone inside."
A bachelor who "had his heart broken several times" and never married, Michael took to custom cutting after high school, his father said, operating large combines across the country. He eventually started his own trucking business, hauling livestock, until he returned to the Molt farm.
While he had no children of his own, Michael was especially fond of his brother's children, Blattie said.
"They were absolutely the most precious things in the world to him," Blattie said.
Michael also had a side to his personality that few outside his family may have seen, Blattie said. When one of Michael's dogs was killed, he called his father for support.
"He was absolutely heartbroken," Blattie said. "That dog was truly a friend. He felt things very deeply, and most people may not have seen that part of him."
Blattie expressed his appreciation for the support he and his family have received in recent weeks. Michael Blattie's funeral was attended by many, he said, and their presence was a comfort in a time of grief.
"We've just been so, so appreciative and almost overwhelmed," he said.
Blattie also praised law enforcement efforts in his son's case, describing investigators as "professional, meticulous and dedicated," even as many questions remain about the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting.
The Stillwater County Sheriff's Office and the state Division of Criminal Investigation "have done an absolutely exemplary job in pursuing this case," he said.