MADERA — A formal trial date has finally been scheduled for Mary O’Keefe, accused of murder in the 2016 death of North Fork resident Bonnie Hale.
On Tuesday, Madera County Superior Court Judge Dale Blea set O’Keefe’s trial for August 12.
At this morning’s proceedings in Department 22, Judge Blea also received a brief update on the long-running case from the defendant’s attorney as well as from Deputy District Attorney Brooke Bergman.
O’Keefe, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, was arrested on Dec. 18, 2016 and charged with murder following an investigation by Madera County Sheriff’s deputies.
During more than two years of incarceration, O’Keefe has undergone mental evaluations by three different doctors, which has caused her trial to be repeatedly postponed.
On Tuesday, Judge Blea confirmed with attorneys that all of the latest medical reports would be submitted before August 12.
The judge added that he still had not had an opportunity to review a report from one doctor that was submitted as recently as July 8.
Hale’s daughter and granddaughters, wearing “Justice for Bonnie Hale” t-shirts, sat quietly outside the courtroom Tuesday until O’Keefe’s case was called. Then they watched a 15-minute proceeding at which O’Keefe stood shackled and in prison garb, staring at the floor and saying nothing.
O’Keefe is being representing by Melissa Baloian, a private court-appointed attorney.
Baloian declined to comment on whether O’Keefe might decide to strike a plea deal before next month’s trial date.
Detectives were first called to Hale’s residence on Road 225 near North Fork on the morning of Dec. 17, 2016, when Bonnie’s son found his mother deceased on her front porch.
At about the same time, deputies were also dispatched on a welfare check regarding O’Keefe, who lived in the vicinity and was showing signs of having been in a physical fight.
O’Keefe was subsequently arrested and charged with first degree murder, with an elder abuse enhancement.
A victim’s advocate from the Community Action Partnership of Madera County sat quietly with Hale’s family members as they waited for the latest court proceeding to begin.
“We’ve come here way too many times already,” was all Bonnie Hale’s daughter, Tanya, was willing to say Tuesday morning. Her own daughters sat by her side and nodded their heads in agreement.