Friday, January 30, 2015
Davis Motor Sales banner ad

dearmond 300WESTERN KENTUCKY (12/15/13) ― The sentencing of a Muhlenberg man, who pled guilty to the 1997 capital murder of a Muhlenberg County teenager, is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. After 17 years, opening up the case to the nation's highest court also opens old wounds for those who believe the death penalty sentence was a matter of justice being served.

Greenville Mayor Ed DeArmond was operations LT for the Kentucky State Police Post 2 at the time of the murder of 16-year-old Muhlenberg South High School student Sarah Hansen. The veteran police officer and military veteran said the murder case will forever haunt his memory not only because of its heinous nature but also because the victim and her family were his friends.

“I got a call that night that a body was found,” DeArmond told SurfKY. “(The scene) was just a few minutes from my home so I went there. Eddie Perry was there keeping people out, and I asked what the situation was. He told me that they had found the body of Sarah Hansen. I knew her and her family.”

Hansen's body was found at Luzerne Lake in Greenville on the night of Jan. 25, 1997 after her family had alerted police that she didn't return home from renting a video at the nearby Minit Mart in Greenville.

The scene and the victim's vehicle provided physical evidence including DNA.

“We started taking interviews, following any leads we could and gathering evidence,” said DeArmond. “We knew we were searching for a certain brand of (men's) shoe based on a piece of evidence we found at the scene.”

A massive manhunt began through a joint investigation by KSP, Greenville Police and the Muhlenberg County Sheriff's Office from command headquarters set up at the Greenville Police Department, said DeArmond.

Investigators searched dumpsters near the crime scene for garments or shoes that the murderer might have been wearing and questioned several possible suspects. Among those was Robert Keith Woodall, then 22.

“Woodall had an attorney and would not answer questions,” DeArmond said. “I was in the other room with prosecutors at the time of his questioning and noticed his shoes matched the ones we were looking  for. I caught him in the hallway and asked if I could look at his shoes. They were indeed identical to the ones we were looking for. I confiscated his shoes.”

DeArmond said investigators began to focus on Woodall, who had been released from prison six months earlier for sexual crimes. Due to his incarceration, Woodall's fingerprints were already on file. KSP lab technicians were brought in with Detective Lt. Mark Mayes in charge of forensics, said DeArmond.

After fingerprints from the van proved to be Woodall's, DeArmond asked then prosecutor David Jernigan for an arrest warrant. Sheriff Jerry Mayhugh and Detective Mike Drake took Woodall for blood analysis to gather more DNA evidence, said DeArmond.

“Once I got the warrants, I read him his rights and briefed the news media,” DeArmond told SurfKY. “I called a midnight press conference rather than waiting until the next morning.”

Due to pretrial publicity, a change of venue was sought and granted for Woodall's trial, which was held in Caldwell County with Judge Bill Cunningham presiding.

Woodall pleaded guilty to kidnapping, rape and murder and was sentenced to death. In Kentucky, the death penalty can only be imposed in capital cases. Murder in addition to either kidnapping or rape constitutes a capital murder.

Over the years, Woodall's attorneys have made numerous appeals.

A U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell in 2009 in which Russell concluded that the judge in the 1998 sentencing should have instructed jurors to disregard the fact that Woodall didn't testify during the trial.

DeArmond believes good judgement will prevail.

Perhaps, the old wounds from a horrible crime will not be opened any farther, he said.

“I don't recall a murder, in all my years in law enforcement, that caused so much pain to just about everyone in the county,” said DeArmond. “I have friends in the Woodall family, too. Everyone was so deeply hurt by this unfortunate incident.”

After the murder, state Rep. Brent Yonts sponsored the Sarah Hanson Act, which was passed into law. The law requires sex offenders to serve their entire sentences and not be granted early release.

The U.S. Supreme Court Justices heard comments from prosecutors and defense attorneys Tuesday. They now must reach a decision to either dispose of Woodall's latest appeal or to instruct jurors to not consider Woodall's silence when recommending a sentence.

A ruling is not expected until at least June.

Rita Dukes Smith
SurfKY News Director
With Contribution by Paul McRee
SurfKY News Reporter
 


© Copyright 2015 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story by using one of the social media links below.

Posted on 2/2/14
2/6/2014 - posted

In Other News...

Apollo Edges Christian County, 79-77

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (1/28/15) — Junior guard Eli Wright poured in a game-high 31 points to lead Apollo over host… Read More

Owensboro Falls to Lady Maroons, 46-40

MADISONVILLE, Ky. (1/28/15) — Junior guard/forward Adarian Gray scored 21 points and Shyia Foster, a junior guard,… Read More
2/6/2014 - posted

Most Read This Week

January 28, 2015 16580

UPDATED: Several Involved in Two-Vehicle Accident

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
January 23, 2015 9981

Local Church's Faith Restored; 71 Souls Saved…

in Video by Gary Gates, SurfKY News
January 26, 2015 6939

KSP Arrests Two on Child Porn Charges; MPD…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Trooper Stu Recke
January 25, 2015 6815

Dean’s List Announced

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Joyce Riggs
January 23, 2015 6107

Parents Face Charges after Marijuana Joint Falls…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Jail
January 28, 2015 6106

Nortonville Man Accused of Meth Possession,…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center
January 23, 2015 4892

Nortonville Woman Charged for Meth Possession

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Hopkins County Sheriff's Office/Hopkins County Detention Center
January 26, 2015 4657

School Board Votes 3-2 for Utility Tax

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News

Most Read This Month

January 08, 2015 21826

Woman Claiming to be 'Lady Gaga' Tours Town in…

in Top News For All Sites by Madisonville Police Department
January 15, 2015 21565

UPDATE: Fatality Victim's Name Officially Released

in Top News For All Sites by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News

Stories Trending Today

January 28, 2015 16580

UPDATED: Several Involved in Two-Vehicle Accident

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
January 28, 2015 6106

Nortonville Man Accused of Meth Possession,…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center
January 28, 2015 4002

Tax Recall Committee Formed Day After School…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
January 29, 2015 3933

Man Charged with Sexual Abuse of Child

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
January 28, 2015 2697

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports - Jan. 28, 2015

in Hopkins News by Madisonville Police Department
January 27, 2015 2497

Whitfield Works to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

in General News For All Sites by Marty Irby
January 29, 2015 2465

UPDATE - Students Have until Jan. 31 to Enter…

in General News For All Sites by James R. Comer
January 28, 2015 2281

Muhlenberg District Court Fines Handed Down

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
January 28, 2015 1990

Hopkins County Sheriff's Reports Released

in Hopkins News by Hopkins County Sheriff's Office
January 28, 2015 1491

Letter to the Editor - Month of Mentors

in Hopkins News by Mallory D. Johnson
January 28, 2015 1461

Kentucky Lottery Results for Tuesday Jan. 27, 2015

in General News For All Sites by Kentucky Lottery
January 28, 2015 1441

Old City Hall Space to be 'First United Bank…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News