Man arrested in Molt death

2009-10-30T21:35:00Z 2010-10-28T22:30:19Z Man arrested in Molt deathZACH BENOIT Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
October 30, 2009 9:35 pm  • 

The Stillwater County Sheriff's Office on Friday arrested a man in connection with the death of a Molt man earlier this month.

Sheriff Cliff Brophy, in a written statement, said Jeffrey Lynn Hardman, of Molt, was arrested on suspicion of deliberate homicide in connection with the death of Michael Blattie, 33.

Blattie was found dead at his home, 2180 Molt-Rapelje Road, on Oct. 16.

Hardman, 48, was arrested without incident at 4:30 p.m. Friday near Molt.

"The arrest was made once investigators had accumulated additional information during the course of the investigation," Brophy wrote.

Deputies from the Stillwater and Yellowstone county sheriff's offices, along with ambulance crews, responded that evening to a 911 call that a man needed medical attention at the Molt-Rapelje Road address, where they found Blattie dead. The death was ruled suspicious, and Brophy said a firearm may have been involved, but few other details were released.

The Montana Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation was called in that same evening to assist in the investigation.

An autopsy was conducted two days later, but its results have not been made public. It could be several more weeks before results from tests done at the state crime lab are completed.

The same holds true for evidence collected at the scene, which has also been sent to the lab and may take weeks for results.

About a week after authorities found Blattie's body, the death was ruled a homicide, and Brophy confirmed that it was the result of a gunshot wound.

On Friday, law enforcement agents continued to search a home adjacent to Blattie's.

DCI Chief John Strandell said state agents along with investigators from the Stillwater County Sheriff's Office were searching the neighbor's residence. He declined to comment further on any details, and it wasn't immediately clear if that search resulted in Hardman's arrest.

The search of the neighbor's residence began Thursday based on some leads received and investigative information, Strandell said. It is the only home near Blattie's - not more than 300 yards away - and both sit in a wide-open area about a mile and a half northwest of Molt and about 20 miles northwest of Billings.

Evidence from the scene has been sent to the state lab as DCI continued to assist the sheriff's office's with the investigation.

Hardman is being held without bond at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility. An initial court appearance has not been set, Brophy said. In the written statement, he credited the arrest and "this outcome to the fine work of the Stillwater county Sheriff's Office personnel and that of the state criminal investigators."

In his obituary, Blattie's loved ones wrote that he was a Montana native, born in Billings in 1976. He lived his entire life on the family farm west of Molt and graduated from Rapelje High in 1994, after which he spent time as a custom cutter and as a truck driver, hauling livestock.

Blattie returned to the farm, where he was living at the time of his death. He was the son of Harold and Betty Blattie of Helena and had three brothers.

"Michael loved genuinely caring for anybody and everybody, and was the kind of fella that would literally do anything he could to help a person out, and never even consider asking for any repayment," the obituary said. "He was just glad to have been able to help out when someone needed it."

Gazette reporter Clair Johnson contributed to this article.

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