Man pleads guilty in rape, murder of pregnant jogger in Russell County

bestep@herald-leader.comApril 3, 2014 

— The man charged with strangling a pregnant Russell County woman in June 2012 pleaded guilty Thursday in a deal that spares him a possible death sentence.

Christopher W. Allman, 30, admitted that he grabbed Sarah Hart as she walked along U.S. 127, dragged her into a weedy field, raped her and strangled her with a thick vine.

The deal Allman signed calls for him to serve the rest of his life in prison, with no possibility of parole.

Circuit Judge Vernon Miniard scheduled sentencing for May 6.

Allman could have faced a death sentence because he committed other crimes, including kidnapping and robbery, in connection with the slaying.

Commonwealth's Attorney Matthew Leveridge had said he would seek the death penalty if jurors convicted Allman.

Hart's husband agreed to the deal for a lifetime sentence, according to a court document.

The random brutality of the attack on Hart shocked and scared people in Russell County and elsewhere.

Hart was 31, a dedicated churchgoer and pharmacist who was about 10 weeks pregnant with her fourth child. She was on an early-morning run along U.S. 127 with her sister when she began to feel ill.

She turned back alone to go to her car, which was parked at a restaurant in Jamestown.

Allman, a convicted felon, often walked the same route on his way to work at an auto-repair shop.

Allman attacked Hart and dragged her into a tree line at the edge of a field, 20 to 30 yards from the road.

Hart's sister alerted authorities when she returned from her run and saw that Hart's car had not been moved.

Forensic tests showed that Hart fought Allman, but at 6 feet, 6 inches tall and 190 pounds to her 5 feet, 5 inches and 120 pounds, he overpowered her.

Allman told police he attacked Hart in order to rob her.

Allman had lived in Florida and was charged there with felony theft, burglary, cocaine possession and resisting an officer. He also had been charged with theft in Russell County.

He pleaded guilty Thursday to every charge against him: murder, fetal homicide, kidnapping, first-degree robbery, rape, tampering with evidence and being a persistent felony offender.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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