Fatal gunshot was contact wound, doctor testifies

2010-08-31T12:03:00Z 2010-10-28T22:30:17Z Fatal gunshot was contact wound, doctor testifiesGazette Staff The Billings Gazette
August 31, 2010 12:03 pm  • 

COLUMBUS — A pastor and a forensic pathologist were among the witnesses to testify this morning at the murder trial of Jeffrey Hardman of Molt.

Pastor Robert Griggs of Faith Chapel Church said Hardman came to the church on Oct. 30 at about 10 a.m. and asked to speak to a pastor.  During a conversation that lasted about an hour, Griggs said, Hardman told him of the shooting in Molt 15 days previously.  Hardman told the pastor he killed his neighbor, Michael Blattie, when the two struggled over a gun during a confrontation about a $35 debt.

Griggs said Hardman was distraught and emotional during the conversation and at the end said he was on his way to turn himself in.

Dr. Thomas Bennett, a forensic pathologist from Billings, told the Stillwater County District Court jury that the 33-year-old victim died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen that pierced several internal organs before striking his spine.  The injury would have caused Blattie to drop immediately to the ground and he likely died within minutes, Bennett said.  

The barrel of the gun was touching Blattie when the fatal shot was fired, Blattie said.

Hardman is claiming that the shooting was self-defense, saying he drew the gun only after Blattie struck him in the face.

Prosecutors this afternoon will play a recording of an interview Hardman gave investigators on Oct. 29, two weeks after the shooting and one day before his arrest.

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