Man faces murder, sex abuse charges in toddler’s death

EVANSTON — An 18-year-old Mountain View man made an initial appearance in Circuit Court Monday morning, facing a first-degree murder charge, among other felonies.

Jesse Hartley, 18, appeared on charges stemming from the May 1 death of a 2-year-old Bridger Valley child. Hartley was living with his girlfriend, the mother of the child, at the time of the child’s death.

Hartley is charged with three counts in the case, including murder in the first degree, aggravated child abuse and first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The charges allege that on or about May 1, Hartley killed the minor child while in the process of perpetrating child abuse, recklessly inflicted serious bodily injury and inflicted sexual intrusion upon the child.

The murder charge is a capital offense with a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole or the death penalty. The child abuse charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 25 years in prison, while the first-degree sexual abuse charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 50 years in prison.

Arguing in favor of a previously-set $100,000 cash-only bail, Uinta County Deputy Attorney Amanda Kirby said evidence is strong in the case and relies largely on a postmortem investigation.

A tearful Hartley spoke on his own behalf and said, “I’m currently suffering from a loss as well, and I really need my family right now.”

He said he intends to attend all court dates and argued bail should be reduced.

“My family isn’t rich and there’s no way we can afford $100,000.”

Circuit Court Judge Michael Greer recognized Hartley’s comments but said the first count is a capital offense and the court does not have to provide any opportunity to post bail. Greer found it appropriate to keep the bail at the $100,000.

Should Hartley post bail, he was ordered to have no contact with the child’s mother or any child under the age of 18.

Hartley’s preliminary hearing was set for 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16, in Circuit Court.

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