Gateway Mayor Andrew Tillman was on the phone with his brother-in-law who worked for the city when the man was fatally shot by the town's former police chief, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Grant Hardin, 48, was arrested Friday in connection with capital murder. Hardin, who lives at 15617 Gann Ridge Road in the northeast part of the county between Garfield and Gateway, was being held without bond at the Benton County Jail.
James Appleton's body was found about 4:15 p.m. Thursday in a white pickup on Gann Ridge Road, according to Benton County Sheriff Shawn Holloway.
Holloway said Thursday evening Appleton, 59, had a gunshot wound to his head. Appleton's body has been sent to the state Crime Laboratory in Little Rock.
Holloway said the men knew each other, but a motive for the shooting wasn't known.
Tillman told police he was on the phone with Appleton at 3:59 p.m. Thursday talking about someone possibly vandalizing the city water tower when Tillman heard what sounded like a "loud slammed door," according to the affidavit. Tillman said Appleton quit talking after the noise, according to the affidavit.
Another person found Appleton's body slumped over the steering wheel of the pickup and called 911, according to the affidavit.
Tillman said the town has suffered a great loss.
"He did it all -- parks, streets," Tillman said.
County records show Hardin served two terms as constable for Benton County District 1 from 2009-10 and 2013-14. Hardin was hired as the police chief for Gateway on Jan. 31, 2016, and resigned in May. Frank Hackler Jr. was mayor at the time and resigned Aug. 9, 2016. Tillman was appointed to replace Hackler.
Northwest Arkansas Community Correction Center in Fayetteville hired Hardin as a correctional officer Nov. 21, said Dina Tyler, the agency's deputy director of communications and public affairs. She said the process to fire Hardin has started.
Hardin's arraignment is set for April 4 in Benton County Circuit Court.
NW News on 02/25/2017
Print Headline: Man arrested in homicide case