Grant Hardin, 48, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. He was arrested after killing James Appleton, 59. Appleton was well-known locally as a volunteer firefighter. Investigators say Appleton was sitting in his car on the side of th road when Hardin pulled up next to him and shot him in the head. 

“Officers later conducted a search of the defendant’s home, his vehicle and found physical evidence of the murder on his vehicle,” said Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith. 

Originally facing a capital murder charge, Hardin agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced charge of first-degree murder. As part of the plea deal, Hardin was given 30 years plus 10 suspended. 

“There is no plea agreement that is ever enough for a person murdering someone in cold blood, which is what happened in this case so what you try to do is structure an outcome that will be justice and that will help the victim’s family heal,” Smith said. 

After the deal was accepted by a judge, Hardin said, “I just want to say I’m sorry.” His attorney said Hardin is aware he ruined two families. The judge ordered Hardin to have no contact with the Appleton family.

Appleton’s murder came as a shock to the community. 

“We were heartbroken, I mean we used to see him check our water, he would say hi to everybody, you know, he was a good guy,” said Melissa Townsend, who works in nearby Garfield.

Smith believes Hardin and Appleton knew each other prior to the murder but says the motive remains a mystery. 

“I think the why it happened, only Grant knows that and he lacked the courage to say it,” Smith explained. 

For more information on the shooting, click here. Report courtesy of KNWA.