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story.lead_photo.caption Grant Hardin

BENTONVILLE -- A former Gateway police chief admitted he killed a man, but his motive remains a mystery.

"I don't know how to say it, but I do want to say I'm sorry," Grant Hardin of Garfield said moments after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Monday.

Plea deal

Grant Hardin was charged with capital murder. Prosecutors agreed to waive the death penalty so Hardin faced life imprisonment without parole if convicted of capital murder. Hardin, 48, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, which is punishable with 10 to 40 years or life imprisonment.

Source: Staff report

Hardin, 48, was sentenced to 30 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction.

He was charged with capital murder and agreed to plead to the lesser murder charge. Shane Wilkinson, Hardin's attorney, reached the agreement with Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith.

Circuit Judge Robin Green questioned Hardin about his rights, and Hardin said he was not being coerced into accepting the plea agreement.

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

A witness told police he saw Hardin, whom he has known his whole life, in a white car behind Appleton's pickup. The man said he heard a loud bang as he drove past the two vehicles, looked back and saw Appleton's body, according to documents.

Appleton's family and friends filled at least four rows in the courtroom. Some of them wiped away tears during the plea hearing.

Appleton's son, Brian, described the impact the murder has had on his family. He said his father was a loving and caring friend, father and grandfather.

Green told Hardin many of Appleton's family members were in court and she wanted to know if Hardin had anything to say to them.

Hardin did not want to say anything, but Wilkinson said Hardin was remorseful for the killing and understood his actions had destroyed two families: His and Appleton's.

Green told Hardin she was going to enter a no-contact order to prevent Hardin from having any contact with Appleton's family members and Monday's hearing would be Hardin's last chance to address the family.

Hardin apologized to the family, but he gave no explanation or reason for killing Appleton.

Green said, "Many of us, including myself, are puzzled by this senseless killing."

"I wish I knew the motive," Smith said following the hearing. "Grant Hardin is the only one that knows. He did not have the courage to tell it."

Smith said Hardin and Appleton knew each other.

"I'm glad for the sake of both families that his case is over," Wilkinson said.

Hardin must serve at least 21 years in prison before he will be eligible for parole. He must abide by a suspended sentence agreement for 10 years after his release from prison.

Hardin received 236 days of jail credit for the time he's spent in the Benton County Jail since his arrest. He must pay $420 in court associated costs.

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

NW News on 10/17/2017

Print Headline: Hardin sentenced to 30 years in prison

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