Hardin sen­tenced to 30 years in prison

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - FRONT PAGE - TRACY NEAL Staff writer

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.

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 no­con­tact 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.


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