Pick Your Community: | Hopkins | Muhlenberg | Daviess | Christian | Henderson | Lakes | McCracken | Webster
Davis Motor Sales banner ad

Former Lawman Recalls Murder Case as Supreme Court Ponders Sentencing Technicality

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 2014 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
3/13 - 16
2/6/2014 - posted
3/13 - 16
button coupons
2/6/2014 - posted
3/13 - 16
2/6/2014 - posted
3/13 - 16
button classifieds
2/6/2014 - posted
3/13 - 16

Most Read This Week

December 16, 2014 9736

Coal Miner Fatally Injured in Underground Mining…

in Top News For All Sites by Dick Brown
December 14, 2014 8644

Muhlenberg Pays Homage to U.S. Armed Forces

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
December 17, 2014 6661

Elderly Couple Found Shot to Death in Muhlenberg

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Trooper Stu Recke
December 17, 2014 6368

Three Men Charged with Burglary

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department
December 15, 2014 4846

Hopkins County Woman Charged Second Time in Two…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
December 15, 2014 4316

Woman Leads Police on High-Speed Chase in Stolen…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police
December 15, 2014 3324

Vehicle Careens down 150 Foot Embankment with…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department
December 18, 2014 3238

Cat Scratching over Dog Ownership Escalates

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Amber Averitt, SurfKY News
December 16, 2014 3150

Highway Crews Pre-Treating Roadways for Potential…

in Hopkins News by Keith Todd
December 16, 2014 3125

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports - Dec. 16, 2014

in Hopkins News by Madisonville Police Department

Stories Trending Today

December 18, 2014 3238

Cat Scratching over Dog Ownership Escalates

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Amber Averitt, SurfKY News
December 18, 2014 1586

Hopkins County Sheriff's Reports Released

in Hopkins News by Sheila Hopper
December 18, 2014 1573

UK Track and Field Announces Initial Eight…

in General Sports For All Sites by UK Athletics
December 18, 2014 1496

DeArmond Looks Back as Retirement Nears

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Paul McRee, SurfKY News
December 18, 2014 1480

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports - Dec. 18, 2014

in Hopkins News by Madisonville Police Department
December 18, 2014 1345

Madisonville Insurance Executive Elected Vice…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Kristy Quinn
December 19, 2014 1266

Vehicle Explodes into Flames on Pride Avenue

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Gwen Smith
December 18, 2014 1224

Traffic Shift for New I-69/Pennyrile Pkwy…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Keith Todd
December 18, 2014 1124

Kentucky's Jobless Rate Drops to 6 Percent in…

in General News For All Sites by Kim Brannock
December 19, 2014 1119

Woman Flown to St. Mary's after Two-Car Collision

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Trooper Stu Recke

SurfKY News Group, Inc.
Corporate Office & Studio
1125 Nebo Rd.  •  Madisonville, KY 42431
270.452.2727 (phone)
  •  270.452.2249 (fax)


Contact a member of our staff: www.surfky.com/contact
Copyright © 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc.  •  Terms of Use  •  Site Map

social fbsocial twsocial yt
social gpsocial flrsocial rss