Pregnant Russell County woman fought her attacker before being slain, coroner says

estep@herald-leader.comJune 15, 2012 

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JAMESTOWN — The athletic, pregnant mother of three killed during a morning run in Russell County fought her attacker, the coroner said Friday.

Preliminary autopsy results indicate that Sarah B. Hart, 31, was strangled to death during the attack on Thursday, said Russell County Coroner Larry Skaggs.

It appeared from the examination that Hart was hit in the face and arm, and Skaggs said police told him the man charged with killing her, Christopher Allman, 28, had injuries as well.

Hart was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds, while Allman is 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 190, according to the arrest citation.

Still, Hart "gave him a good struggle," Skaggs said. "She definitely fought back."

Skaggs said he understood Allman went to the Russell County Hospital for treatment, which aided police in the investigation.

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The autopsy performed Friday confirmed Hart was 10 to 11 weeks pregnant with her fourth child, state police said.

The unborn child's death could result in another charge against Allman when evidence is presented to a grand jury, said trooper Billy Gregory, a state police spokesman.

Allman is charged with murder, first-degree robbery, kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence.

He is being held without bond at the Russell County Detention Center, where he declined interview requests.

The crime would be eligible for the death penalty because Allman allegedly committed a robbery in conjunction with the homicide, and because the victim was apparently kidnapped and not released alive.

State police arrested him less than 12 hours after Hart was last seen. They have not released details on how they were able to identify him as a suspect so quickly.

During questioning, Allman admitted killing Hart "for the purpose of taking her money," state police Detective B.J. Burton said in the arrest citation.

Allman also admitted hiding Hart's body, the citation said.

Burton checked a box that indicated marijuana involvement, but police have not released information on that.

Hart was killed after going for an early-morning run with her sister Thursday.

The two left from Jamestown, headed north along U.S. 127 toward Russell Springs. Hart ran that route regularly, friends said.

About 5:30 CDT, Hart said she didn't feel well and decided to turn back toward her car, parked at a restaurant in Jamestown, while her sister continued her run, police said.

Allman walked to work most days along U.S. 127, according to people who knew him.

He allegedly encountered Hart along the road, robbed and killed her, and hid her body in a tree line at the edge of a field, 20 to 30 yards from the road.

Skaggs said the thick stem of a weed was wrapped around Hart's neck.

The highway is one of the busiest in the county, but traffic would have been relatively light that early in the morning.

There are homes and businesses along the entire route from Jamestown to Russell Springs, but also some open fields and wooded spots.

Allman did mechanic work at a shop in Russell Springs, said his boss, Greg Muthig.

Muthig said Allman came to work Thursday and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Muthig said he did not see any injuries on Allman, and Allman didn't say anything about going to the hospital.

Allman has a prior criminal record in Kentucky and Florida, where he lived before moving to Russell County.

In Seminole County, Fla., he was charged three times in 2003 with felony theft, twice with burglary and also with cocaine possession and resisting an officer "without violence," according to court records.

He was charged in 2009 in Florida with misdemeanor theft.

In Russell County, a man swore out a warrant in 2007 charging that Allman stole three vehicle transmissions from him and sold them for scrap.

Allman, who said his income was $500 a month at the time, paid restitution, according to court records.

Several people who know Allman said he didn't shy away from work. He often walked or rode his bicycle several miles to get to work, and sought out odd jobs when he wasn't needed at the mechanic shop, they said.

"I never saw him turn down a job," said Pete Bryant, who said he owns the garage where Allman worked for another man.

Bryant said he was reluctant to be seen as supporting Allman because of the hard feelings over the slaying, but that the brutal crime seemed "out of character" for Allman, based on what Bryant had seen of him.

The case has caused a wave of shock and grief in the south-central Kentucky county.

Hart, who was a pharmacist, and her family are well-known and liked. Her father is a minister, her mother is an elementary-school principal and her husband, Ryan, and sister Elizabeth Roberts are pharmacists.

Latonya Wright, who brought a wreath of pink flowers Friday to a makeshift memorial near the spot where Hart's body was found, said Hart and her sister grew up models of good behavior.

"She was always a really nice person," said Wright, who played softball with Hart in high school.

Friends said Hart was devoted to her family and to her church work. She was fun to be around and was a warmhearted woman always ready to help others, said people who knew her.

"You couldn't have found a better person," said Jack Stephens, who came with other family members Friday to the spot where Hart's body was found.

The crime seems senseless to local residents, in part because Hart wouldn't have had much to steal while she jogged.

And it has damaged the sense of safety many people felt in a community where many people know each other.

It was common for people to jog alone, but many people won't do that anymore, said Amber Stephens, Jack Stephens' daughter-in-law.

Stephens said she has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and might get a gun small enough to carry as she runs.

"It's changed the way we do things," Stephens said after leaving flowers at the spot where Hart was found.

Daniel W. Phillips III, an associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at Lindsey Wilson College who lives in Russell County, said what happened to Hart is more like a predatory, big-city crime.

Phillips said his wife, Kelly, has said she won't run in town anymore.

"I think that the fear this crime invokes will be felt in this county for years," he said.

Herald-Leader reporter Josh Kegley contributed to this story. Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1

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