Marty Alvard, 40, of Green Forest will spend at least 28 years behind bars for murdering his mother-in-law, Janice Allen of Berryville, using first a baseball bat and then a knife.

 

The jury that found him guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday night returned Thursday and sentenced him to 40 years in prison. By law he must serve 70 percent of the sentence or 28 years.

The jury also sentenced him to the maximum for kidnapping, terroristic threatening and using a gun for both those crimes. But the jury specified that all the sentences were to be served concurrently, for a total of 19 years with time off for good behavior on the other charges at the same time he is serving the 28-year murder sentence.

Circuit Judge Kent Crow inquired if the jury had intended that he serve the terms concurrently, and the jurors said yes. Nobody defined the term, but it meant all the sentences will be served at the same time as opposed to consecutive sentences, which are served one after another.

Prosecutor Tony Rogers told Judge Crow that the law required that the two gun sentences be served consecutively on top of the sentences for the crimes in which the guns were used. Defense lawyer Bill James of Little Rock said the jury hadn’t been told that.

Judge Crow asked for briefs within five days so he can decide before he signs sentencing documents.

 After Alvard was whisked out of the courtroom, friends and relatives of Janice Allen gathered around Deputy Prosecutor Devon Closser, who told them that Alvard would serve at least 28 years.

With the death penalty off the table when the jury lowered the charge from capital murder to first-degree murder, some of them had clearly expected a life sentence.

“How did this happen?” one asked Closser.

“It’s just the nature of a jury,” she replied.

Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek has had roughly a dozen officers inside and outside the courthouse since the trial began on Tuesday of last week.

Asked why afterward, he said he had “gotten some feedback that something might happen — nothing specific.”

Because emotions ran high, he said, the officers were there to “make sure their presence prevents anything.”

Alvard, an avid hunter, was tried for killing Janice Allen by first hitting her in the back of the head with a baseball bat, then stabbing her with a knife in a cut compared by witnesses to the way hunters bleed out deer. The date was April 25, 2008.

Allen had been staying with her daughter, Jo Ann Alvard, who had undergone a second brain surgery two weeks earlier. Jo An Alvard is Marty Alvard’s estranged wife, but he said he had come over to help with her care.

He told jurors he was doing the dishes and then he had the bat in his hand and was hitting, then “poking” Allen.

He then forced Jo Ann Alvard to leave her Green Forest apartment with him, threatening to shoot her first when she yelled for help in her apartment and later when she yelled for help as they drove past the school, according to her testimony.

After driving around and making several phone calls, Marty Alvard turned himself in to Green Forest Police Chief John Bailey and Officer Shannon Hill. He told the chief that his mother-in-law had given him “the cold shoulder” and he didn’t know why he killed her.

Before the jury began deliberating on the sentence Thursday morning, it heard from Janice Allen’s son, Marty Alvard’s mother and Marty Alvard.

Jeff Allen told the jury that his mother, who owned a small beauty shop, was religious, liked to comfort people and had brought laughter to everyone she met. He said she got tired of visiting with people at funerals and organized a happier event, the First Annual Polo-North Polo Fall Festival north of Berryville. It continued in her memory, and the eighth festival will happen this year, he said.

Connie Alvard, Marty Alvard’s mother, wept while she apologized to Janice Allen’s family.

“We’re just extremely sorry about what’s happened,” she said. She said Marty Alvard had been a good son and urged the jury to “follow your heart.”

Marty Alvard was the final witness in a voice so wracked with sobs that he was difficult to understand, but he seemed to apologize and say, “I didn’t mean it.”

Prosecutor Tony Rogers told the jury Alvard’s “tears are just a little too late,” and it was time to do justice and protect society by giving him a life sentence.

Alvard’s lawyer, Bill James, noted that Marty Alvard hadn’t been in trouble before, had wanted to be a policeman and turned himself in after his “impulsive failure to control himself.”

He didn’t try to claim that Janice Allen did anything to him, but told people, “I just snapped,” James said.

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