Hardin sentenced to 30 years in prison

Grant Matthew Hardin
Grant Matthew Hardin

BENTONVILLE -- A former police chief and constable was sentenced to 30 years in prison after he admitted he shot a man to death.

Grant Hardin, 48, of Garfield pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder. He originally was charged with capital murder, but prosecutors reduced the charge under a plea agreement Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith reached with Shane Wilkinson, Hardin's attorney.

James Appleton, 59, of Gateway was shot in the head while he sat in his parked pickup Feb. 23, according to court documents.

Wilkinson waived a scheduled suppression hearing.

Appleton's family and friends filled at least four rows in the courtroom. Appleton's son read a victim impact statement and described the impact the murder had on their family.

Gateway Mayor Andrew Tillman, Appleton's brother-in-law, was on the phone with him when he was shot, according to court documents.

A witness told deputies he saw a white car behind Appleton's pickup, according the probable cause affidavit. The man said he saw the driver of the car and said he heard a loud bang after he passed the two vehicles, according to court documents. The man said he turned around and saw Appleton's body, according to the affidavit.

The man told police the driver of the car was Hardin, according to court documents. The man said he has known Hardin all of his life and Hardin worked for the Gateway Police Department, according to the affidavit.

Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green accepted the plea agreement and Hardin's guilty plea.

Hardin was sentenced to 30 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction. He must serve at least 21 years in prison before he will be eligible for parole. He must abide by a suspended sentenced agreement for 10 years after his release from prison.

Green gave Hardin a few opportunities to address the court. She told Hardin it was his last chance to say anything to Appleton's family because she was going to order him not to have any contact with them.

"I don't know how to say it, but I do want to say I'm sorry," Hardin said.

Wilkinson said Hardin is remorseful for the killing and understood his actions destroyed two families.

County records show Hardin served two terms as constable for Benton County District 1 from 2009-10 and 2013-14. Hardin worked as police chief for Gateway, and he also worked for Northwest Arkansas Community Correction Center in Fayetteville, according to court documents.

NW News on 10/17/2017