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Monday, Nov 20, 2017
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Swinger blames lawyer, hit man, victim for life sentence

— Even though he admits he helped hire a hit man to kill his then-girlfriend’s husband, Jerry Bottorff says he was stunned and overwhelmed when he was sentenced to life in prison.

After Thomas Lee Sehorne was shot to death outside his home in 2007, Jerry Bottorff married Sehorne’s widow, Christie Fay Bottorff, and helped raise the couple’s two young children. The Bottorffs also collected $1 million on Sehorne’s life insurance policies and remained free for nearly four years until the murder was solved.

Now Jerry Bottorff is trying to have his sentence reduced by blaming others for his predicament.

He’s blaming the victim, saying Sehorne abused his wife and children.

Bottorff is also blaming his lawyer, who he accuses of failing to properly represent him.

And Bottorff blames Michael Garcia, the former Latin King gang member he and Christie Fay hired to broker the murder, and the man who helped authorities solve the murder after he was arrested on unrelated drug charges.

After losing his appeals, Jerry Bottorff has filed a petition to vacate his sentence, arguing he and Christie Fay didn’t receive effective legal assistance from their lawyers.

“Mr. Bottorff is truly delusional,” said Frank Louderback, who represented Bottorff when he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in federal court in 2012. Louderback didn’t elaborate.

The sordid events of 2007 were hatched in a Brandon swingers club, according to Bottorff’s petition, as well as testimony given by Bottorff and Garcia in the 2012 trial of the gunman, Luis Angel Lopez.

Jerry Bottorff said he was working in the Pleasure Palace on Adamo Drive when Thomas Lee and Christie Fay Sehorne came in.

Garcia, who says he used to be the state leader of the Latin Kings before he had a falling out with the gang, was a regular at the club, where he sold cocaine and Ecstasy.

Bottorff testified that he thought Garcia, with his tattoos and tough talk, was like the character played by Joe Pesci in the mafia movie Goodfellas. They became friends.

Among Garcia’s tattoos was an inscription on his eyelids: “Guilty Dreams.”

Bottorff developed a relationship with Christie Sehorne in 2005. He now says in his petition that Thomas Lee Sehorne was an abusive alcoholic, and that the two had an open marriage in which each dated others and encouraged infidelity. Bottorff says Sehorne encouraged his relationship with Christie Fay.

Bottorff didn’t mention any abuse or alcoholism when he testified in the Lopez trial.

The victim’s family said at the Bottorffs’ sentencing hearings that Sehorne loved Christie Fay so much he was prepared to divorce her so she could be with Bottorff and be happy.

Still, Bottorff began talking to Garcia about killing Sehorne, who went by his middle name, Lee.

“It started out as just jokes between Christie and I,” Bottorff testified in the Lopez trial. “As tasteless as they would be, we joked about when he would be coming from the Great Lakes if his plane went down and he would be the only person that would die.”

In 2006, he testified, he approached Garcia with the idea. He said he was with Garcia in his garage when he asked him what he had to do to put a contract on someone.

Numerous conversations on the idea followed, some of which involved Christie, who also wanted her husband dead.

Bottorff says in his petition that he spent a large amount of time at the Sehorne home. Lee Sehorne traveled often and for extended periods because of his job. Bottorff says he developed a relationship with the Sehorne children and essentially took over as if he were their father and Christie’s husband, all with Sehorne’s encouragement.

Bottorff says in his petition that when he and Christie told Garcia that Sehorne was abusing Christie and the children, Garcia, “sensing a chance to enrich himself from the situation, suggested that Sehorne be killed, in anticipation of being able to extort the couple later on.”

“The Bottorffs, thinking this was all bravado and jest, unfortunately agreed,” Bottorff says in his petition. Although he testified in the Lopez trial that he talked to Garcia about several possible methods for killing Sehorne, he now says in his petition that they never discussed a plan or a strategy.

He says in the petition that Garcia “coerced and intimidated the Bottorffs into accepting his recommendation, and they learned to feel threatened by him and fear him.”

At the same time, he says he and Christie Fay “never believed the act would be carried out” because Garcia told inconsistent stories.

Before the murder, Bottorff visited Garcia at his house to give him a $5,000 down payment. Garcia testified he went inside with the money, but his wife told him to give it back, so he did.

The cost of the hit varied in different conversations, but the Bottorffs ultimately agreed to give Garcia $60,000 from life insurance proceeds.

“This is why neither Jerry nor Christie believed a word of Garcia’s,” Bottorff’s petition says, “as they thought to themselves, what hitman would ever do anything without some sort of payment? Henceforth, they never believed Garcia, thought he was a liar and just blowing smoke.”

On June 7, 2007, Garcia said, he and Lopez went to the Sehorne home, where they knew Lee Sehorne would be returning from a trip. Lopez hid under a truck while Garcia acted as a lookout. When the lights for Sehorne’s truck appeared, Garcia told Lopez, “Here he comes.”

Garcia said he saw Sehorne park the truck under the carport and get out to walk toward the house.

“Oh, God, no,” Garcia heard the victim say. Then he heard a gunshot, followed by a second shot.

Then, he said, he and Lopez fled, leaving Sehorne on the driveway.

The next morning, accounts differ about who found the body. U.S. District Judge Stephen D. Merryday has said he was found by Sehorne’s 6-year-old son.

Christie Fay Sehorne called 911 saying she found her estranged husband’s body near her door.

Less that two years after Sehorne was murdered, Christie Fay wed Jerry Bottorff. They eventually settled in Brandon.

The murder went unsolved for nearly four years. In that time, Garcia said, he continued to socialize with the Bottorffs, who came to his home and brought the children on occasion.

Then Garcia was jailed on unrelated drug charges, and he decided to cooperate with authorities.

In a series of phone calls monitored by investigators, the Bottorffs made arrangements to pay $18,000 for the killing in three installments. Bottorff met an undercover agent at a McDonald’s, where he gave him cash.

As they were about to go on trial, Christie Fay and Jerry Bottorff pleaded guilty. They, along with Garcia, later testified against Lopez.

Bottorff wrote in his petition that he and his wife “genuinely anticipated 10-year sentences” in return for their cooperation” because that was what attorneys had assured them they faced. He claims he was told by his lawyer and the prosecutor not to tell the judge that Sehorne had abused his wife and children.

Although federal defendants who cooperate are nearly always given sentence reductions when the prosecution requests, Merryday was so horrified by the murder, he sentenced the Bottorffs to life.

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