UPDATE: Former Police Chief Pleads Guilty To Murder; Tells Family “I’m Sorry”

BCSO Booking photo Grant Hardin. 5NEWS file photo.

BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) — Former Gateway Police Chief Grant Hardin pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Monday (Oct. 16) morning in Benton County Circuit Court.

Hardin was sentenced to 30 years in the department of corrections; the plea also included an additional 10 years of a suspended sentence and all rights to appeal were waived, according to Nathan Smith, Benton County prosecuting attorney.

Hardin, 48, was charged with capital murder in connection with shooting James Appleton, 59, in the head, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office and has been jailed since February, 24, 2017.

The shooting happened on February 23, near Garfield. When police arrived at the scene that afternoon, on Gann Ridge, they found Appleton’s body inside a car.

Several of Appleton’s family members were in court when Hardin entered his guilty plea.  The judge asked Hardin, several times, if there was anything he had to say to Appleton’s family.  Hardin said, “I don’t know how to say it, but I’m sorry.”

After court, the prosecutor talked to 5NEWS about the murder, but could not give a clear explanation as to why the shooting occurred.

“The defendant had worked with Mr. Appleton, or had not worked with him, but been involved in city government at some point,” said Smith, “I think he ran across Mr. Appleton that way.”

Smith said he’d have to speculate as to the motive.  “Ultimately, the defendant never said what his motive was, so really we can’t say with any certainty.”

The prosecutor said Hardin murdered Appleton by pulling up beside him on the road and shooting him through the window of his car into the defendant’s truck.  An acquaintance of Hardin passed the scene, saw him sitting there, then heard a loud boom and saw Mr. Hardin speed away.

“Officers then conducted a search of the defendant’s home and vehicle and found physical evidence of the murder on his vehicle.”

“Not a typical murder case”

Smith called this, “not a typical murder case,” because you didn’t know immediately why something was done, why it happened.  “There’s no doubt it happened.  There is no doubt that Grant Hardin murdered James Appleton in cold blood,” said Smith.  “I think the ‘why’ of it … only Grant knows and he lacked the courage to say it.”

A call was placed to speak to Hardin’s attorney, Shane Wilkinson, but have yet to be returned.