Molt murder suspect pleads not guilty

2009-11-16T11:30:00Z 2010-10-28T22:30:18Z Molt murder suspect pleads not guiltyGREG TUTTLE Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
November 16, 2009 11:30 am  • 

COLUMBUS — A 48-year-old Molt man pleaded not guilty to murder Monday during his first appearance in Stillwater County District Court.

Jeffrey Lynn Hardman appeared before Judge Blair Jones and entered the plea to a charge of deliberate homicide for the Oct. 15 slaying of Michael Blattie.

Hardman is accused of shooting Blattie in the abdomen, but details of the events surrounding the shooting and a possible motive have not been released. The men lived near each other on Molt-Rapelje Road.

Blattie, 33, the son of Harold Blattie, a former Stillwater County commissioner, was found dead of a gunshot on the front porch of his house. Authorities initially described his death as suspicious.

Hardman was arrested about two weeks later after investigators said they found a written confession during a search of his house.

“I can’t take the guilt,” Hardman is alleged to have written in the signed note.

Investigators also allege that Hardman admitted to another person that he was armed with a firearm when Blattie was shot. Hardman is also accused of leaving a threatening telephone message for Blattie the day of the shooting.

Hardman remains in the Yellowstone County jail. Jones reduced his bond from $2 million to $1 million during the arraignment, saying that is the amount he usually sets in such cases. A trial date will be scheduled later.

Hardman appeared in court with a public defender, Todd Chatman, who called the $2 million bond previously set in Stillwater Justice Court “highly prejudicial just by its nature.”

County Attorney John Petak asked for the higher bond amount to remain, saying Hardman has a criminal record in Kansas and California that includes several misdemeanors and at least one felony.

Previous information that Hardman’s criminal history included a conviction in West Virginia was incorrect, Petak said.

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