JAMESTOWN — A Russell County mother of three who was found dead early Thursday might have been the victim of a tragic crime of opportunity, police said.
Sarah B. Hart, 31, was apparently killed as she made her way back to her car alone during an early-morning run.
A Jamestown man is accused of robbing and killing Hart and hiding her body under a tree at the edge of a weedy field, 20 or 30 yards off busy U.S. 127.
Kentucky State Police charged Christopher W. Allman, 28, with murder, kidnapping, robbery and tampering with physical evidence. Police arrested him at 5:09 p.m. Central Daylight Time, not quite 12 hours after the killing.
Police did not release details on how Hart was killed — saying an autopsy was necessary to confirm the cause of death — or what Allman is accused of taking from her.
Allman lived in Jamestown, but was from Florida originally, said trooper Billy Gregory, a state police spokesman. Jamestown is about 85 miles southwest of Lexington.
Police plan to contact authorities in Florida to see whether Allman might be linked to any unsolved crimes there, Gregory said.
The story unfolded after Hart and her sister, Elizabeth Roberts, left from Jamestown for a run early Thursday.
They were running along U.S. 127 north toward Russell Springs, Gregory said.
About 5:30 a.m. CDT, Hart said she didn't feel well — that she felt dehydrated and had a headache, Gregory said.
Hart decided to turn back south to go to her car, which she'd left in the parking lot of a restaurant in Jamestown, Gregory said.
Roberts continued with her run. She expected to find Hart's car gone when she got back, but it was still in the parking lot, said Kendall Kilbourne, for whom Hart, a pharmacist, worked. Kilbourne talked with Roberts after Hart went missing.
Roberts said she drove around to look for Hart but didn't find her, Kilbourne said.
"She pretty well panicked at that point," Kilbourne said.
Police and other authorities started searching for Hart, and as word spread that she was missing, dozens of volunteers poured in to help, going door-to-door to pass out fliers and combing areas near the busy road.
"Really, it was quite an outpouring," Gregory said of the community response.
Hart's father, Wendell Roberts, is a minister in Russell County; her mother, Cynthia, is an elementary-school principal; and her husband, Ryan Hart, is a pharmacist, so the family is well-known and respected in the county, friends said.
State police brought in a helicopter with an officer aboard trained to spot marijuana to look for Hart, Gregory said.
While authorities coordinated the search, the prayer-team leader at Russell Springs United Methodist Church quickly organized a prayer service for Hart, said Michelle Price, a member of the church whose husband coaches a Little League baseball team that includes Hart's daughters.
After the vigil, Price said she heard a body had been found.
Two searchers — a father and son — found Hart's body at 11:14 a.m. CDT, Gregory said.
She was about a quarter-mile south of where her sister last saw her, hidden in a treeline at the edge of a field, Gregory said.
Police searched the area for evidence, setting up a 3-D laser scanner system to measure and diagram the scene.
Police did not release details on how they were able to focus quickly on Allman as a suspect.
However, before the arrest, a friend of Hart's family said she understood police had questioned a man seen on a building security camera in the area.
Hart had two daughters, about ages 6 and 5, and a son who is perhaps 18 months old, Price said.
"She was wonderful, very sweet, very soft-spoken," Price said. "It's heartbreaking."
Hart was a patient, loving mother, devoted to her family and active in church work, said Ada Lawson, a member of Freedom Christian Church, where Hart's father is the pastor.
"I cannot talk about the devotion to the church and to her family that she had enough," Lawson said.
Hart had undergraduate and pharmacy degrees from the University of Kentucky and had worked at Kilbourne's pharmacies in Pulaski County and in Mount Vernon for several years, Kilbourne said.
"She was a super person," he said. "You can't say enough good things about her."