The United States Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in the case of a Kentucky man who once faced the death penalty after pleading guilty to murdering a 16 year old girl in 1997. The High Court's decision to take the case has some people in Greenville re-living it.
In 1998, Robert Kieth Woodall, 39, pleaded guilty to raping and murdering 16 year old Sarah Hansen in January 1997. Woodall's defense attorneys say the initial trial judge acted wrongly by not instructing the jury to not consider Woodall's refusal to testify during his sentencing hearing.
Woodall's appeals resulted in a federal judge overturning the sentencing phase and, thus, the death penalty. Kentucky's Attorney General would later appeal that decision to the United States Supreme Court.
"For the first time in the history of Muhlenberg County, to my knowledge, there's a case going before the United States Supreme Court," said Greenville Mayor Ed DeArmond. "This is a historic day and I just hope it brings back some positive results."
Before becoming mayor, DeArmond was a lieutenant with Kentucky State Police. He says he has a personal interest in the case because he spearheaded the field investigation that ultimately resulted in Woodall's arrest. He still believes that Woodall deserves the death penalty and the U.S. Supreme Court should uphold his sentence.
"I can tell you it caused me to probably retire," DeArmond said. "I probably might have stayed another four or five years but it took a lot out of me personally."
Hansen, who was 16 at the time of her murder, is described as vibrant, a cheerleader and band member. DeArmond says she epitomized what ever parent wants their child to be.
"It's a tragedy that the Hansen family shouldn't have to relive 17 years after the fact," DeArmond said. "How [the Hansen family' has handled it, it's remarkable. I've never seen anything like it."