A first-degree murder trial that could take most of next week is scheduled to begin Monday in Crawford County Circuit Court.

Patricia McClure-Hajek, 59, is charged in the death of 54-year-old Sharon Sue Richards, an Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department employee working at the Arkansas Welcome Center on Interstate 40 in Dora May 1, 2012.

At a Monday pretrial scheduling conference, Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune said he expected to call as many as 20 witnesses during the trial. Public Defender Ryan Norris said the defense would call seven.

McCune told Cottrell he expected the trial to last a minimum of two days; Norris predicted four days.

Cottrell urged the attorneys to avoid any last-minute filings.

“It would have to be something that could not possibly be known now,” he said.

McClure-Hajek is free on a $500,000 signature bond pending the trial.

Van Buren police found Richards’ body on the ground behind her AHTD pickup. She had been shot in the neck twice.

McClure-Hajek approached an officer holding a handgun, which she dropped without resistance. She was transported to Sparks Regional Medical Center for treatment of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg that was apparently accidental.

McClure-Hajek told authorities she was armed with a .22-caliber Ruger for protection because she thought someone was after her. She said she had been in a vehicle accident before coming to the rest stop, where she stayed all night.

In April, a forensic psychologist filed a report with the court declaring McClure-Hajek suffered from no mental disease of defect at the time of the shooting and has the capacity to assist in her own defense.

Sept. 9, McClure-Hajek was released from the Crawford County Detention Center after Norris argued Arkansas law required her release because she was incarcerated for nine months following her arrest and not yet brought to trial. Under Arkansas law, the state has one year to bring a defendant to trial, unless the defendant is in custody. If a defendant is in custody, he or she must be brought to trial within nine months. Delays created by defense requests don’t count against the nine-month requirement.

In his Sept. 9 order, Cottrell agreed McClure-Hajek was incarcerated for more than 270 days since her arrest, even with excluded time deducted, and ordered her release with conditions.

McClure-Hajek is prohibited from leaving the state, violating any laws and may not possess a weapon or involve herself in any “riotus or disorderly conduct.” She must also report to the Crawford County Detention Center each Friday before 5 p.m.

First-degree murder is a Class Y felony punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison. story created on Monday 11/25/2013 at 1:15:12 pm by Kenneth Fry